Unlike the inhumane use of a fire bomb to wipe out an entire population in-
fected with a deadly virus in 1995’s Outbreak, the disease in Contagion cannot be
dealt with that “easily.” It’s totally unknown, spreading through densely populated
cities, here and abroad in 24 hours. Touching a person or just talking to them is enough
to give you the bug, whatever it is; a classic pandemic case on an apocalyptic scale. This
take on a popular sci-fi sub genre (think 28 Days Later or The Crazies) by Steven Soder-
bergh is much more restrained in the face of the usual chaos and panic that ensues.
It starts oddly enough on day 2, causing your brain cells to momentarily acti-
vate and your eyes to narrow. They progressively widen as we watch Gwyneth Paltrow’s
Beth coughing at Hong Kong International Airport, a young Chinese boy sweating after
getting off a boat, a model in a London hotel experiencing some type of sickness, a Tokyo
business man dropping to a bus floor and then the same Chinese boy losing his life in
a tragic accident (can you see this boiling to a peak?).
Beth does manage to get back to Minnesota and her son Clark and stout husband
Mitch (Matt Damon). But a few days later the cough reverts to a bad seizure. Mitch rush-
es her to the hospital where all the doctors are literally clueless as to what is wrong with
her; they have theories and no definite answers which frustrates Mitch no end.
Meanwhile as the virus spreads, it becomes absolutely imperative that the World
Health Organization, the Center for Disease Control and unfortunately, the military get
involved to combat this new threat. From their depths, comes the reserved Dr. Cheevers
(Laurence Fishburne), brave and daring Dr.Orantes(Marion Cottilard), the intrepid Erin
Mears(Kate Winslet) and Homeland Security liaison Lyle Haggerty(Breaking Bad’sBry-
an Cranston), who believes (naturally), that this virus may be a terrorist attack. In any
case, it’s a proverbial race against time for all.
Probably nothing would spice up this film more than a conspiracy theorist. And
Jude Law is more than up to the task as Alan Krumwiede. He’s a “Die Hard”, monkey in
the wrench type journalist whose after the real truth about the virus and won’t take any-
thing at face value from anyone mentioned above. He even has a one on one with Chee-
vers on national television.
Contagion is certainly not your end-of-the-world-courtesy-of-an-unknown virus
sort of movie. In fact, you may yawn at some points. It’s devoid of high octane helicopter
chases and sports only a few instances of social unrest. The lethal virus doesn’t turn peo-
ple into flesh eating zombies, it just kills them. Slow and deliberate, with considerably
more medical and scientific detail from the principle players than it really needs, the on-
ly similarity to other pics of it’s genre, is the lack of humor and deep seriousness laced
with hope that a cure will eventually be found.
It’s hard to disagree that the cast is all star quality. They have all either won an
an Oscar or have been nominated for one. Their performances ,whether calm and relaxed
like Cotillard and Winslet, or momentarily explosive like Damon and Law, prevent the
movie from getting too bogged down despite the slow pace. Even the secondary charac-
ters ( I.E John Hawkes from Winter’s Bone) get to shine.
Soderbergh’s visual style has always been delightfully prosaic, yet always realis-
tic. He maintains a steady flow between the multi-story lines and character arcs, while a-
voiding spectacularism. It helps you to relate to Contagion as an actuality rather than just
another virus- gone- mad movie. His down to earth approach may be dull to some, but in
the end gives you something to uplift your spirits.