Contagion

2011-10-24 14:57
 
What it's about:

The rapid progress of a lethal airborne virus kills within days. As the fast-moving epidemic grows, the worldwide medical community races to find a cure and control the panic that spreads faster than even the virus. At the same time, ordinary people struggle to survive in a society coming apart.

What we thought:

A tense docu-thriller that boasts more star power than it knows what to do with, Contagion is a curious piece of "what-if" scenario plotting that will either scare the living daylights out of you or put you to sleep. Hypochondriacs, beware.

Director Steven Soderbergh sticks to his guns and once again assembles a celeb-filled cast in a sprawling, episodic tale of how a deadly, highly infectious disease spreads to the US and sparks panic as families and communities try to protect themselves and the Centre for Disease Control (CDC) work tirelessly and methodically to first identify the virus that's presented itself and figure out how they're going to vaccinate against it.

Depending on how much you get a thrill out of watching medical mysteries being solved while watching millions of people die excruciating deaths, Contagion is a bit hit-and-miss as some strands of the plot are more effective than the rest.

It starts off with the elusive 'Patient Zero', played by Gwyneth Paltrow, who returns home to the US from a business trip in Hong Kong and starts to display flu-like symptoms and is dead within 24 hours. Her husband, played by Matt Damon, is at a loss when their young son dies too and he is left to care for his teenage daughter as the world around him descends into choas as the virus takes hold.

This heartwrenching 'human' side to the epidemic is set against more clinical stories of government officials, doctors, scientists and corporations working their respective angles in staking a claim to the virus and the new world reality it has engendered.

Kate Winslet fares better than most of her co-stars as the brave Dr Erin Mears, an Epidemic Intelligence Service officer, who is recruited by CDC chief Dr Ellis Cheever (an excellent Laurence Fishburne) to begin work on investigating the origin of the outbreak, while the resourceful Dr Ally Hextall (Jennifer Ehle) is tasked with identifying the virus and developing the much-needed cure. There is little time for emotion in their interactions and daily struggles and highlights the thankless work being done by medical professionals when words like SARS and swine flu send the population into hysterics.

Though their efforts on the ground are not being helped by Alan Krumwiede (played by Jude Law), a shrewd Australian journalist and career conspiracy theorist who believes that he has found a homeopathic cure for the disease called Forsythia and creates even more panic as pharmacies become overwhelmed with demand for the treatment. Law seems to have some fun with his character, who sports a distracting accent and stained snaggle teeth. He offer some degree of light relief in an otherwise gloomy tale.

As these various stories of survival play out in locations around the globe, Contagion gradually starts to lose impetus as a medical thriller as it deals with each dilemma in a manner that disengages the audience from a story that could very well become reality.

Soderbergh opts for a cold and sterile tone throughout Contagion, letting the scary statistics and scenes of ruin and chaos in the streets of New York and London speak for themselves. So while it may offer some darkly thrilling images of Gwyneth Paltrow's skull being cut open, and will very likely make you wary of anyone coughing or sneezing near the vicinity of your personal space, it's less likely to make you care very much about the destruction that's been so carefully plotted before you.

Though you may regret that bacon and eggs you had for breakfast this morning.


A tense docu-thriller that boasts more star power than it knows what to do with, Contagion is a curious piece of "what-if" scenario plotting about the global outbreak of a deadly new virus.

Heino Heyman 2011/10/26 12:06 PM
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I very interesting movie. Enjoyed it very much. Cast was also very good. Movie get one to think a bit. Thumbs up.
Jason 2011/10/27 9:51 AM
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I really enjoyed it. The "sensationalism" aspect of it was very played down - it was done it subtle realistic tones which makes it far more believable. Great acting, good overall plot - found myself immersed in the film the whole way through.
Lunga 2011/11/07 12:43 PM
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Couldn't give it a 6, so I gave it a 5.
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