My initial thoughts after seeing the first twenty minutes of the film, boy do we live in a scary world. Something that isn't even detectable by the naked eye could kill thousands and be transferred from one to the other so quickly due to our negligence. Contagion taps into that fear and exploits it. Not only that but also the human condition and how when we are faced with something so horrible, we jump to riots in an a fight for survival. It's a scary reality, the idea is there and present but the film itself misses in pace and direction. It benefits from strong actors, yet some of them do phone it in. Steven Soderbergh sits comfortably in the director's chair, where he is quite comfortable with working with an ensemble cast like this one. So, like I've said, it has all the pieces to be a solid film but falls short in areas where you wouldn't expect it to.
The plot follows the sudden outbreak of an unknown virus that is spread from three people. One of them being Beth Emhoff (Gwyneth Paltrow) as she is returning home from a trip to Hong Kong. Her son and husband Mitch (Matt Damon) meet her and Mitch is surprised to see how visibly tired she is. The next day her symptoms get worse, and their son gets sick. That night, Beth begins to have a seizure and dies in the same night. The doctors are unable to give Mitch a clear answer as to what killed her as it is never an exact science with this kind of thing. Others begin to show the same symptoms across the world, and all of them came from the same place that Beth had been when she was in Hong Kong. The CDC then gets involved as they realize an epidemic may be on their hands as this deadly disease is spreading fast. The two members of CDC that the film follows closely is Dr. Ellis Cheever (Laurence Fishburne) and Dr. Erin Mears (Kate Winslet). The two do as much as they can to figure out ways to stop the outbreak, and how it originated.
Alan Krumwiede, an internet blogger, frequently posts on the internet updates on the outbreak and later claims to have the vaccine which then sets off more problems on a larger scale. People are then sent into a panic as they act rashly to get their hands on this supposed vaccine from the man speaking to them through the internet. It is a bit alarming to see how gullible people can be in such dire situations and just how much the social networking sites play into everyday life. Mitch witnesses first hand how far people are willing to go as he witnesses some heinous acts throughout the film. Once the vaccine is in fact created, people then are alarmed at how very few people are actually getting it and how many people close to those that work at the CDC are.
The film carries a heavy message that gets through very clearly. It showcases how easily an infectious disease can start and spread throughout our population. However, the film's pacing and overall bland performances by most brings the film down making it a very slow moving film. Matt Damon and Jude Law do what they can with their roles making them two of the more likable characters. Kate Winslet's performance as Erin Mears is that of a truly genuine woman that cares more about others than herself, which is surprising to see considering how quickly her co-workers jump to help the ones they love instead of their country. The musical score is impressive, and not what I would expect from a movie with this serious of a tone. Some of the beats reminded me of Tron: Legacy's soundtrack, but it fit. Soderbergh is a good director, but he and the screenwriter may have missed just a tad in really driven home a great product. Overall, the film's message is strong as is some of the performances while the rest is a cluttered mess.