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Director: Steven Soderbergh
Writer: Scott Z. Burns
Cast: Kate Winslet, Matt Damon, Jude Law, Gwyneth Paltrow, Laurence Fishburne, Stef Tovar, John Hawkes, Jennifer Ehle, Marion Cotillard
Synopsis: Soon after her return from a business trip to Hong Kong, Beth Emhoff dies from what is a flu or some other type of infection. Her young son dies a few days later. Her husband Mitch however seems immune. Thus begins the spread of a deadly infection. For doctors and administrators at the U.S. Center for Disease Control, several days pass before anyone realizes the extent or gravity of this new infection. They must first identify the type of virus in question and then find a means of combating it, a process that will likely take several months. As the contagion spreads to millions of people worldwide, societal order begins to break down as people panic.
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13 for disturbing content and some language
Dr. Stevennix2001's prognosis of "Contagion"
Indeed, one could call "Contagion" one infectious movie, as it grows on you like a virus. Infecting us with it's clever story arc, it's well rounded characters, and many symbolism regarding government conspiracy to forcing us to question just how much the government would tell us about a viral threat. Making us possibly think about how vulnerable humanity is each day to thousands upon thousands of airborne and microscopic diseases. All the while, "Contagion" adds a somewhat of a "CSI" level of detail to draw in it's audience even more. My prognosis for this infectious film? Sit back. Relax, and grab yourself some popcorn, as this will take you on helluva a ride. Although I won't go out of my way to say this is one of the best dramas that I've seen in years, but it's certainly worth checking out.
As some of you may know in recent years, the media has uncovered several various diseases such as "Swine Flu" and the "Bird Flu", which has caused quite an uproar and panic among people, so it shouldn't be that surprising that Hollywood would inevitably try to make a film to capitalize on that fear like it has with so many other phobias in the past. Although to be fair, this isn't exactly the first film of it's ilk to talk about an infectious disease wiping out the entire human race. Anyone remember a little film called "Outbreak?" Although to be fair, "Contagion" is a much better film by comparison.
For what "Contagion" tries to be, it's really not half bad. Originality aside, the film is both entertaining, and thought provoking on how it delivers it's slow but melodramatic tension. Plus, unlike most Hollywood films, this one plays out like more of a docudrama, which only helps immerse the viewer into the story. Although some people might be put off by the aspect of mass media creating world wide panic in the face of an infectious disease, to cast doubt among their own government officials. However, I tend to think this plays right into the truth about our society. An infectious unknown, and incurable disease is released among the masses (insert references to "Swine Flu", "Bird Flu" or any other dangerous disease here). Then, you have worldwide government officials who have to go through a series of red tape to find a cure, and figure out how to distribute it through the pharmaceutical companies. A harsh and brash media spreading fear and misinformation throughout the masses, as it forces many citizens to cast doubt on their government officials. A limited supply of vaccines, as many are unlucky enough to attain it. "Flu shot" vaccinations, anyone?
However, what I think works surprisingly well for this movie is that it never sticks with one main character. No unlike most films, this film is centered around various different characters; each representing their own unique personality, and each character the film focuses on represents a different meaningful point of view to allow the audience to look at various perspectives of the story. Not only this is move a stroke of brilliance, but it certainly helps the film's tension build towards it's climax effectively, as it allows the viewer to see this story unfold from various angles.
Although, the movie does suffer from various pacing issues throughout the middle of the film, where it tends to drag it's feet while in other scenes, it displays scenes that really don't go anywhere, or add anything to the central focus of the story. Of course, some of these scenes are minor like the unfaithful cheating wife that dies from the mysterious disease, yet there's a dramatic scene where Kate's character asks, "How do you tell a man that his wife was cheating on him before she died?" Granted, I know this scene was probably intended to create more of a internal conflict within Matt Damon's character, but why not just show the scene where she tells him that his wife was cheating on him? After all, if you're trying to create internal conflict within his character, then a scene showing his reaction would draw in more sympathy from the audience. Otherwise, it turns into another pointless scene; especially considering that it's rarely ever brought up throughout most of the film. Therefore, why would you create a subplot like that to begin with if you weren't going to use it?
However, the central story about how a virus can affect our society in various ways is still carried out quite well, as it not only covers the small intimate point of view with Matt Damon playing a father that desperately tries to protect his daughter from the virus. It also covers the government's point of view with Laurence Fishburne and Kate Winslet's characters, as they both work for the CDC (United States Department of "Center for Disease Control"). Showing us an in depth behind the scenes if you will to show the viewer exactly how this alleged super virus works, as they desperately search of a cure. Marion Cottilard's character represents another more personal touch to this entire incident, as it shows how Asia reacts to such a crisis in light of the events, as it brings more of a global threat feel to the whole movie.
And, we have the media as I stated earlier, being represented by Jude Law. Sure, as a character, there's never any clear motive given as to why he would have it out for the CDC so badly; other than he's just another run of the mill conspiracy nut. However, what he represents in this film is all too clear. After all, I'm sure many readers can remember how the media has been infamously known to promote scare tactics and misinformation a lot of time for the sake of ratings. Anyone recall the infamous "Y2K" incident? Or how about those African Killer Bees we were supposed to get a while back?
The point is, "Contagion" seems to be a thoroughly well thought out film. Granted, the premise really isn't that original, as we've seen other movies with eerily similar if not the same concepts before. However, "Contagion" brings a level of detail that most films of it's ilk lack; which in the end, it only makes it that much more entertaining. Although, none of the performances really stood out to me, which is surprising considering you have an all star cast here, but the chemistry between the actors seems to be on point with what Steven Soderbergh was trying to accomplish.
Granted, I won't say this is one of the best movies that I've seen all year, but it's definitely worth checking out at a rating of three out of four.