Title: Side Effects
HTS Overall Score:80.5
Have you ever wondered what it would feel like to be buried alive? The helpless realization that you’re trapped in a box sealed-shut by hundreds of pounds of dirt. Your body still able to move but limited by the confines of its new quarters. All control stripped away. Your panic, no matter how urgent, falls on deaf ears.
It’s a terrifying thought.
While Side Effects has nothing to do with physically being buried, as I watched the film unfold I felt a similar anxiety as the characters become trapped in realities they’d rather avoid. The skillfully crafted plot covers some of the characters true motivations long enough to make the effect profound. It’s stressful to watch, but very entertaining.
Side Effects is an intense and enthralling character-driven psychological thriller that twists and turns, flips and flops, and ultimately injects a load of intensity for a chilling finish. I have to admit, I’ve always been a huge fan of complex plots that change directions and throw audiences for a loop. The Usual Suspects is a favorite film because it does this with such successful authority and believability that the twisting end is easy to embrace. It delivers a superior ‘a-ha’ moment in its finale. Primal Fear (which starred a young Edward Norton as a murderous multiple personality adolescent) is another excellent thriller with a concluding twist, and in some regards it shares many qualities with Side Effects because of its psychological underpinnings. Side Effects, much like the mentioned films, manages to run the gauntlet and evade snafus that ruin so many made-to-be tricky movies, and in so doing exhibits Steven Soderbergh’s (Traffic, Contagion) versatile directorial skills.
In the film, Emily Taylor (Rooney Mara) is a young married woman that struggles with bouts of depression. Her husband, Martin (Channing Tatum), is in prison for insider trading. Martin soon walks free and the young couple is reunited with hopes of regaining their future. Unfortunately Emily’s depression tightens its grip and she intentionally crashes her car into a wall. This is how Emily meets Dr. Jonathan Banks (Jude Law), a psychiatrist with a perfectly happy life. Emily becomes his patient.
Complications begin to occur when Emily isn’t responding to medications. Dr. Banks engages Emily’s old psychiatrist Dr. Siebert (Catherine Zeta-Jones) looking to better understand her past. It turns out Emily is a complex patient with a long history of treatments. Ideas are bounced around, more medications fail to work, and Dr. Siebert casually suggests a new medication: Ablixa. Uh-oh, there’s only one problem. She forgets to mention a tiny little side effect: sleepwalking.
As Side Effects unravels, its storylines begin to weave themselves into a thrilling tale of murder, deception, innocence, and demise. On numerous occasions the film abruptly changes course and creatively shifts its primary focus from one character to another. This keeps the film fresh and invigorating. And the acting, with the exception of Channing Tatum (who mails in a performance worthy of a lesser movie) is superb. Law and Taylor are simply fantastic and Jones nails the role of a deviously smart individual.
Rated R for sexuality, nudity, violence, and language.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/news/SE5.png[/img]Universal Studios treats us to a beautiful 1.85:1 AVC-MPEG4 encode. The image is largely driven by haze/glow emanating from bright objects in the background of shots. This haze bleeds-over what would otherwise be sharp edges (such as the profile of a face). On rare occasions it seems to overly soften the image, but it generally lends to a dreamlike state carried by the film and is a nice effect. The film otherwise presents a sharp image full of incredible amounts of detail in both close-up and distant shots. Flesh tones appear to be accurate and natural, and facial detail is abound. The film’s color palate is relatively cool with a tilt toward a yellow-brown, but maintains vibrant greens and popping reds. Blacks are deep and inky with good shadow detail and no issues with noise. All-in-all, the image presentation is excellent.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/news/SE4.jpg[/img]The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio presentation in Side Effects is solid from top to bottom and a total delight for the ears. The overall sonic impact of the film is anchored by the original score of Grammy Award winning Thomas Newman (Skyfall, Shawshank Redemption). It’s very reminiscent of his score heard in 1992’s Scent of a Woman but much darker and sinister. Underneath of it’s angelic nature is a smooth foreboding bass and pulsating sounds that emphasize the tension and stress mounting within the lives of the characters. Surround activity is subtle but enveloping, which is to be expected for a drama thriller. Throughout the city-centric movie, surrounds are full of passing traffic (including a realistic portrayal of the muted rumbles of car engines as heard within city buildings), the subtle rumbles within the interior of a car, ambient echoes in rooms, and the pulsating low-end of a boat engine. The dialog presentation is excellent and strikes a perfect balance with the rest of the audio track. It is always clear and concise with all the appropriate nuances (such as a throaty depth to male voices) that one would expect. It’s one of the best dialog presentations I’ve heard in a long time.
Overall, the audio presentation is potent for a film of this nature.
- Behind the Scenes
- Ablixa Website Experience
- Ablixa Commercial
- Intenin Commercial
Side Effects is an easy movie to recommend, especially to fans of thrillers with complex plots. Except for Tatum’s ho-hum performance, its a solid film from beginning to end. Speaking of the end, for a brief moment I was persuaded it was bound to be rather ordinary. Luckily Soderbergh saved a few tricks to seal the deal. The film is bolstered by an excellent audio and video presentation. While I routinely frown when a movie is presented in a 1.85:1 aspect ratio, the film’s transfer and overall image quality is top-notch. And the audio presentation is smooth and simply delicious. The only aspect of the release that weighs-down the overall score are the included Extras. I typically find Behind the Scenes extras to be interesting and insightful. This release unfortunately contains a bizarre, sarcastic, and comedic attempt at a spoof Behind the Scenes look. It is a total flop. Not to let that sour the overall package, I recommend this film to be an easy buy for fans of thrillers and mysteries, and a sure-shot rental for others.
Starring: Jude Law, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Rooney Mara, Channing Tatum
Directed by: Steven Soderbergh
Written by: Scott Z. Burns
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Audio: English: DTS-HD MA 5.1
Studio: Universal Studios
Runtime: 107 minutes
Blu-Ray Release Date: April 21, 2013
Buy Side Effects Blu-ray on Amazon
Recommendation: Buy for collectors of thrillers, otherwise a solid rental