Perhaps too ominous for its good, Contagion follows in the footsteps of Outbreak, a similar movie about a deadly pandemic from the nineties. Directed by Steven Soderbergh, it features a very familiar and skilled cast led by Matt Damon and Kate Winslet. I recommend you do not watch the trailer for this one since it’s very misleading. It downplays the almost documentary aspect of the movie and focuses on all the wrong things.
Contagion is a brutal, honest and frightening account of what might happen. Some of the scenes are truly harrowing and will hit hard, especially if you had anything to do with hospitals. So, after we find out that there’s a deadly virus spreading, we focus our attention on several characters. Yes, this is one of those intersecting stories movies and I think that this was a mistake.
The story loses its focus by trying to tell everyone’s story instead of concentrating on just a few characters. For example, in the above-mentioned Outbreak, we basically have three main characters and that’s it. But I guess they were trying to make this feel relatable and all the other focus group crap. After a really engaging first half of the movie, the pacing slows down but the intensity of the scenes remains.
It all starts relatively easy, as all catastrophic things do when Beth Emhoff’s business trip to Hong Kong turns out to be more dangerous than anyone could ever imagine. Upon her return to the States, she starts coughing and feeling a bit ill. Soon what she thought was common flu will turn out to be something much different. Her son also gets sick and before you know it, the whole thing explodes.
It’s pretty obvious that Contagion toys with the worst possible scenario but that doesn’t make it any less real. The science seems to be sound and they realistically show just how frustrating and difficult such events can be. They were going for this gritty realism vibe, reflected in Soderbergh’s direction. I would much prefer the classical approach but what can you do.
I mean, within the first five minutes we get our first autopsy complete with a face peal, not a nice way to start your movie night. However, considering what type of movies you can find here, I’m not judging, just saying. So, get ready to channel your inner prepper and check out Contagion, it’s a pretty solid effort. And wash your hands, just in case.
Director: Steven Soderbergh
Writer: Scott Z. Burns
Cast: Gwyneth Paltrow, Matt Damon, Laurence Fishburne, Jude Law, John Hawkes
Fun Facts: Consultant Dr. Ian Lipkin, professor of epidemiology at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health created the virus used in this movie. It’s similar to Nipah virus from Malaysia in the late 1990s, which spread from pigs to farmers.