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200 words on Side Effects

I wasn’t a fan of Contagion, director Steven Soderbergh’s previous film. It suffered from being realistic to the point of boredom. Despite the stakes supposedly being world-wide, it felt small. Side Effects feels small, too, but it’s a small story. Some of the choices that the film makes were genuinely surprising. Things I considered, and dismissed as unlikely, came right back around and proved that good thrillers do exist, even if they aren’t quite as exciting as their older, 90s counterparts. The performances are great (nearly) across the board. It’s wonderful to see Catherine Zeta-Jones again in a meaty role. Jude Law is great. And after The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and this film, it’s clear that Rooney Mara is the real deal. Channing Tatum doesn’t typically do it for me and this time isn’t any exception. He could have easily been replaced by someone who brings another level to the role (Ryan Gosling? Bradley Cooper? Matt Damon?). I’m not a fan of opening scenes that end with a 48 HOURS EARLIER title card. But here it is done well and doesn’t feel manufactured in editorial. Overall, it’s competent and intriguing and it took some turns I wasn’t expecting.