Rooney Mara

Side Effects (2013)

Graphic Designer Emily (Rooney Mara) begins to emotionally unravel just after her husband (Channing Tatum) is released from prison for insider trading. After a failed suicide attempt, she is taken under the wing of psychiatrist, Jonathan Banks who puts her on a prescription of new wünderdrug, Ablixa; an experimental drug Banks is paid to promote on behalf of the pharmaceutical company. Unfortunately, the drug takes an unfortunate hold of Emily and before long, Banks finds himself on a downward spiral.

And that’s about as much as we can tell you.

Like some of the best thrillers in life, the less you know about Side Effects going in, the better the experience. Steven Soderbergh’s directorial departure seems to start off as a criticism of the drug dependent lifestyle that’s peddled out daily in America by THE MAN and the inherent nature we all have to feed off other’s pain to justify not overcoming our own. Everyone Emily meets has their tale of woe and their chemical of choice to overcome it. Whilst Emily breaks apart, the rest of the world feels empathy but with the desire to let their woes be made vocal as well. Everyone is together but they are alone. However, before you know it Soderbergh changes gears and  it all starts getting as twisty turny as a mix-up in a pretzel factory. It’s not without saying that when this happens, to paraphrase The Matrix, you’ll find yourself reaching for the red or blue pill. You can accept what’s happening and enjoy the ride or you can run out screaming for a sequel to Magic Mike.

We had a blast. Soderbergh clearly relished making this film as it bounces around defying genre types and audience expectations. This may not be the film you expected Soderbergh to make, but when does he do the expected?

Unfortunately, you have to take the rough with the smooth. In this instance, the rough comes in the form of rival psychiatrist, Victoria Siebert played with mahogany splendor by Catherine Zeta Jones. We still struggle to this day to understand how Zeta Jones keeps getting work and Side Effects doesn’t help matters. Adopting an awful American accent, Zeta Jones pouts and attempts to simmer at every given opportunity. Her relationship with Law is so intricate to the plot, we just wish they’d held out for someone better.

Still, this is just a drop of ink in the ocean. Side Effects is a compelling thriller that will keep you guessing up until the end. It’s also at times, a tribute to the thrillers of the past such as The Third Man and Vertigo. Take it once in the evening with a glass of water and see us in the morning.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011)

There have been a lot of reviews that have jumped on the bandwagon of comparing David Fincher’s latest with the Swedish original. Completely natural, but after a while it just turns into a pointless ‘who would win in a fight? Superman or Godzilla?’ argument. Director of the 2009 version, Niels Arden Oplev, asked why anyone would see Fincher’s when they could see the original. Somehow suggesting his is the superior version. We would like to retort with why should you see either when you could read the book? It’s called choice, Oplev.

Anyway, with all that in mind, EBFS is going to stick its fingers in its ears, go lalalalalala and pretend there hasn’t already been an attempt to bring Steig Larsson’s novel, Men Who Hate Women, to life. Okay? We’re all agreed? Let’s move on then.

Disgraced journalist, Mikael Blomkist (Daniel Craig) is hired by retired CEO Henrik Vagner (Christopher Plummer) to investigate the disappearance of his grand-daughter 40 years previously, believing her to have been murdered by one of her own family. During his investigation, Blomkist hires Lisbeth Salander (Rooney Mara); a researcher for a security firm and ward to the state. As the two grow closer to the truth, they grow closer to each other. And that’s the potted version.

With a plot encompassing rape, revenge and Nazis, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is a dense film based on a dense book. In a similar fashion to LA Confidential, Steven Zaillian shaves off a number of characters superfluous to the main plot; keeping it lean, mean and vicious. Like Lisbeth Salander herself. The credit sequence itself is a primal scream, reminiscent of Fincher’s Fight Club, encouraging, nay, demanding you pay attention (see above). The film simmers, never rushing to conclusions. Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross’ script throbs at the back of your head, almost penetrating your brain during the scenes of violence.

Both the leads stand out for very different reasons. Mara is superb as Salander; playing her equal parts violent school child and intelligent sociopath. If there was someone else who had played this part before her, and EBFS is still refusing to acknowledge there is another film during this review, then Mara certainly holds her ground in comparison. She’s subtle; her blank expressions showing so much of the character within. Not bad for a girl from Urban Legends 3. Craig stands out because he’s the only one NOT putting on a Swedish accent. We can only assume he kept impersonating the Swedish Chef before Fincher gave in and let him do his own thing.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is a brutal film that stays faithful to the original. If you’ve already decided not to see it because of some allegiance to another version that may or may not exist, you owe it yourself to make the effort to this. As Salander said, there will be blood.