3 out of 5 stars
Genre: Drama, Sci-Fi
Opens locally on Friday, September 9th, 2011
Run Time: 1 hour 45 minutes, Rated PG-13
Starring: Matt Damon, Kate Winslet, Laurence Fishburne, Jude Law, John Hawkes, Gwyneth Paltrow, Marion Cotillard, Elliott Gould
Directed by Steven Soderbergh (The Informant!, Erin Brockovich, Traffic)
Germaphobes beware…”Contagion” is your worst nightmare. In a movie that will instantly draw comparisons to the 1995 film “Outbreak,” “Contagion” takes the viral pandemic catastrophe plot and brings it into the modern, post 9/11 world. Being released on the weekend of the 10th anniversary of 9/11, it does a good job of recreating the fear and hysteria that we all felt in the days and months following the horrific terrorist attack on our country.
But this film’s deadly threat isn’t a terrorist attack. A highly contagious and fast-moving virus infects a young woman in a casino, and every single person she comes into contact with is at risk for catching it. It causes death, and quickly. Throughout the movie, the camera focuses in on seemingly minute, unimportant actions…like hands on doorknobs, on glasses, as we brush against each other in a crowd, touching our faces, coming into contact. As I left the theater, I felt a tinge of hesitation in touching anybody or anything on the way out.
Director Steven Soderbergh handles the material in a very realistic way…how would the modern world react to a deadly disease that kills millions and continues to spread worldwide? Smartly, the focus of the film is not on the virus itself, but rather the human reaction to it. It isn’t crazy to think that politics would be in play, or that great tragedy would cause chaos, instead of bring folks together. I mean, if you can’t profit from the vaccine, then why release it to the public, right?
Nobody is safe in this all-star cast. Matt Damon is a father who loses his family to the disease, and gives us a “common” angle on how the disease affects a family. At the government level, Laurence Fishburne is a CDC (Center for Disease Control) operative trying to figure out how to contain the virus, with Kate Winslet as his right-hand woman. Jude Law is a shrewd journalist who cries foul, incarcerated for claiming that the disease and it’s cure are being covered up by the government. Marion Cotillard, Elliott Gould, Gwyneth Paltrow, and John Hawkes, among many others, round out the A-List group fighting the disaster. You’ll be surprised as to who bites the dust, and when, showing that this disease has no qualms when it comes to infecting famous actors.
Unfortunately, the film takes longer to catch on than the virus does. A lot of “Contagion” involves people talking, in dire tones, and there isn’t much in the way of action or suspense. It’s a dark movie. The over-stuffed cast has so many well-known actors in it, that none of them get the time or the development that one would expect.
“Contagion” could have used a shot of adrenaline, to keep us from falling into a coma. Still, the political shuffling, and the red tape getting in the way of a cure does seem frighteningly realistic if something like this ever happened. And oh yeah, something like this did happen, as alluded to in the film (the Spanish Flu of 1918.)
It’s an “action thriller” by no means, but as political science-fiction goes, it is quite infectious.
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