To read about my thoughts on the movie before actually seeing it, check out this super long complicated post I wrote right here. I saw this film in theaters but I just never got around to finishing my review, what better time to finish than now when the DVD/Blu-ray release is next week?
Russ Fischer of /Film.com described this film as the paranoia of Contagion mixed with the duplicity of The Informant! and I think he’s spot on. The movie feels cold and clinical like Contagion and much like The Informant! I had no idea where the story was going at first. It’s a bit difficult to get into the movie without spoiling it, but I’m going to try my best not to reveal anything.
This is a small character driven film that does posit bigger ethical questions about the pharmaceutical business and where the responsibility lies between doctors and patients as far as medication goes. It shows how easily the system can be taken advantage of and looks into the grey areas of medication.
The four main actors are all in top form. Can I just say that I think Steven Soderbergh revived Channing Tatum’s career? Haha, at least acting-wise because his recent output has been so great and I think his collaborations with Soderbergh started that trend with Haywire, Magic Mike, and now Side Effects. Rooney Mara is continuing to show that she is a versatile acting threat and has a bright future. I can’t remember the last time I loved Catherine Zeta-Jones in a movie, but she pulled it off here. Jude Law has some really great moments as he tries to figure out what is going on in this film.
I love the way the movie changes in tone/genre. At first it’s a more of a character piece and you’re watching the Rooney Mara character try to work out her depression. By the second half it turns into more of a procedural thriller as you try to unwind the mysteries. There are a couple of moments that literally took me - and my audience - by surprise. It wasn’t like there were a couple gasps (I’ll never forget that screening of The Ides of March where some lady gasped at the most obvious reveal ever lol), numerous times throughout the film there were audible gasps from a majority of viewers in the audience.
If I have a knock on the film it’s that the second half feels a lot more standard whereas the first half was content to just do its own thing and leave the audience wondering. I suppose at some point you do have to unravel the mystery box, but there was nothing that new or innovative brought to that process.
This is a complete nonsequitur so I put it at the end of my review, but I got an added thrill at being able to keep up with most of the medical terminology as well as the protocols one follows for psychiatric disorders. At the same time the movie scared the shit out of me because I thought to myself “Oh dear God! What if I get put into that kind of situation???” lol.
Side Effects is a great thriller and one that I can’t wait to revisit again. The performances are great and the story has a multitude of twists and turns. I hope this isn’t Steven Soderbergh’s last film because he’s one of my favorite filmmakers. If this is truly his swan song then make sure you do not miss Side Effects in theaters.
STEVEN SODERBERGH INTERVIEWS ROONEY MARA
STEVEN SODERBERGH: Did you think you were Little Miss Hot Shit in college, or did that come later?
ROONEY MARA: When I was at college, my nickname was Keds, because I wore Keds. I guess it wasn’t really a nickname, because nicknames are usually given to you by people who are your friends and who know you. But I didn’t know the people who called me Keds. I think that they didn’t like me because I didn’t want to join a sorority. I left that school.
SODERBERGH: Sounds like you would have been asked to leave if you hadn’t left on your own, especially since you think that all sororities should be abolished. Your background is boring me, so let’s get to the movie stuff. When you were working with [David] Fincher on The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo , why did he have to do so many takes of all your scenes?
MARA: Har, har … Because I am such a pleasure to be around, Fincher would prolong my scenes so that I would be on set all of the time. And maybe because I am stubborn, I thought that I could out-stubborn him. But you can’t out-stubborn a Finch. He was always right, though. Not everyone can make films with “less than one take,” like you.
SODERBERGH: So do you really have any tattoos? Or was that acting?
MARA: I don’t have any. That was acting.
I lost it at Soderbergh’s first question LMFAO!!!
First trailer for Steven Soderbergh’s Haywire!
I thought this dude was retiring! He’s got a new movie coming out every couple months LOL. Not that I’m complaining, I love Soderbergh, so more is better.
I heard of Contagion a very long time ago, I think maybe 2 years ago? The amount of Academy Award winners and nominees in this movie is absolutely ridiculous. Winners: Steven Soderbergh, Matt Damon, Gwyneth Paltrow, Marion Cotillard, Kate Winslet; nominees: Jude Law, Laurence Fishburne, John Hawkes, Eliott Gould. Plus Emmy Award winner Bryan Cranston. So we know the talent was immense, but how was the movie?
What’s odd about this film is that I usually bash films that introduce a multitude of characters and create short arcs for them, but for some reason it works in Contagion. I don’t know if it’s the cold, calculating manner that the stories are handled with or the nice little subtle nuances, but a lot of this movie works for me. I suppose having a great director and a top flight cast doesn’t hurt. There are so many characters here that the fact that there’s so many great names attached almost feels like a deliberate attempt to cash in on our feelings for those actors in general to skip out on character development, yet at the same time I don’t feel like the film was disingenuous.
I’ve heard people make comparisons to Soderbergh’s film Traffic, and I think the comparisons are apt. Whereas that film had a wide scope on the world of drugs, Contagion does it with an infectious disease. I love the realism of this movie. There are certain moments that could have been played up for dramatic effect that are instead just done in a matter-of-factly way because that’s how it would happen in real life. When someone dies, they often don’t get to say this huge speech or convey a life lesson, they just die. The coldness of this film helps separate it from other films of this ilk.
The execution of this film is definitely what separates it from the rest. There are so many small little real life touches that make each character feel real. I never thought that anything that happened in this film was preposterous or stupid. Each character has their own personality and deals with this epidemic in their own way. Sure, there are subplots that don’t feel as satisfying as others, but what works generally outweighs what doesn’t.
Contagion works as a sprawling thriller that takes a serious look at how the world would cope with a widespread contagious disease. There is so much that is covered in such a short amount of time, but the film does so much well. It hits on many themes and explores the shortcomings of society. Do not go into Contagion for a “movie” movie. By that I mean I don’t go in expecting shocking plot twists or many movie-isms. Contagion is a well executed movie about how we would realistically deal with an epidemic and everything that comes with that.
Edit: Special shout out to Jude Law as the crazy blogger. I can’t stop quoting his line from the trailer with his accent in this film “On die wun dare wuz tew peeple, end den for, end den seexteen. In three munths it’s a BEELYUN! That’s-ware-wee’re-hetted!” LOL!
Steven Soderbergh you brilliant bastard! This cast is ridiculously stacked too with Matt Damon, Gwyneth Paltrow, Laurence Fishburne, Jude Law, Marion Cotillard, and Kate Winslet. The imagery from the trailer alone is haunting, let alone the idea of some contagious virus spreading all over the world. I’ve always had a fascination with post-apocalyptic movies where everything in the world goes to shit, so I’m definitely there opening night personally. 2011 in film keeps looking better and better.