An empty room. On the floor, a set of bloody footprints. Fade to black.
Martin (Channing Tatum) has just been released from prison where he did time for insider trading. His wife, Emily (Rooney Mara), appears to be happy that he’s home though the combination of a husband in prison and an uprooted life has given her an anxiety condition that is out of control. After a car accident Emily meets Dr. Banks (Jude Law), a psychiatrist who feels the accident was anything but. He offers to help Emily, unaware that soon he will be the one needing help.
An old fashioned thriller in every sense of the word, “Side Effects” gives you just enough clues to stay in the game but never reveals enough to get you to drop your guard. The clever script, by Scott Burns, is full of twists and turns that take you from one character to the next, silently scratching your head and wondering who do you believe?
The storyline is helped by a cast just as serious as the material. In his best work since “Cold Mountain,” Jude Law is brilliant. He gives Dr. Banks a heart that one normally doesn’t see in the typical Hollywood shrink. With a wife (Vinessa Shaw) and step-son at home he strives to do what he can for both his family and his patients. Mara continues the great promise she showed in “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.” Emily is sometimes happy, sometimes sad and, sometimes, both at the same time, which is very hard to portray believably on screen. You want to root for her but you take a step back, unsure if you should. Zeta-Jones is well cast as a former doctor of Emily’s while Channing Tatum continues the run of fine performances that started last year.
For a director supposedly mulling retirement, Steven Soderbergh has kept busy. This is his fifth feature film since 2011 and, after roles in the recent “Haywire” and “Magic Mike,” Side Effects” completes a Channing Tatum trilogy! Busy or not, Soderbergh is still at the top of his game, crafting a film that gives you clues that may or not tell all that you need to know.