‘Side Effects’ may include suspense, enjoyment

Article Published: Feb. 14, 2013 | Modified: Feb. 14, 2013
‘Side Effects’ may include suspense, enjoyment

Jude Law stars in 'Side Effects.'

Steven Soderbergh’s new thriller, “Side Effects,” is a disturbingly easy pill to swallow.

In a world where pharmaceutical companies can legally market drugs that “may cause death,” a thematic murder mystery seems all the more plausible.

Throw in some convincing performances by two stellar leads, and director Soderbergh (“Traffic”) has a perfect prescription for suspense.

When Emily Taylor’s (Rooney Mara, “The Girl with Dragon Tattoo”) husband (Channing Tatum, “21 Jump Street”) is released from prison, it seems they might finally get their life together back on track.

But a failed suicide attempt by Emily proves otherwise, landing her in the hospital and care of psychiatrist Dr. Jonathan Banks (Jude Law, “The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus”).

When treatment through a variety of antidepressants doesn’t yield any improvement, Banks consults with Emily’s former therapist (Catherine Zeta-Jones, “The Mask of Zorro”), who recommends a new drug, Abrixa, that’s popular in the public eye and has reportedly seen stellar results.

Unfortunately, side effects may include – cue the dramatic music – murder. It doesn’t quite say so on the bottle, but after Emily’s well into this particular course of treatment, a body turns up, with the bloody trail leading directly to her.

Banks continues to treat Emily after her arrest and comes to the conclusion that she has no recollection of the events, as a side effect of Abrixa is sleepwalking. Furthermore, Emily’s husband witnessed her sleepwalking in another instance prior to the murder.

Naturally, Banks is more than concerned – not only for the sake of his patient, but for the future of his career. As Emily’s case gains national attention, he begins losing patients and patronage by pharmaceutical companies, plunging him into debt, familial strife and a sense that something more sinister is at work.

“Side Effects” is a clever, taut mystery, complete with some intriguing twists from screenwriter and frequent Soderbergh collaborator Scott Z. Burns (“The Informant!”). Per usual, Soderbergh creates an atmosphere perfectly in sync with the film’s themes, and it’s nothing short of immersive. There’s an underlying sense of uneasiness that seeps through the surface, evident in the pacing and cinematography and brought to life by a more than competent cast.

Law and Mara are brilliant in their roles, providing convincing and memorable performances for characters in which audience members can actually invest – even more so after a Hitchcockian twist, which makes matters all the more engrossing.

And, at the very least, it’ll make for some colorful conversation with your pharmacist.
“Side Effects,” rated R for sexuality, nudity, violence and language, is playing at Regal Cinema 7 in Boone. For show times, visit http://www.mountaintimes.com/movies.

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