Steven Soderbergh's "Contagion" feels like a documentary film shot through the lenses of a gloriously high-quality film camera. Perhaps this is because in a sense, it kind of is. The film is about a deadly epidemic/pandemic - unidentified and initially untreatable - that starts to spread across the globe; from Hong Kong to Atlanta. The basic plot concerns a number of different people ranging from scientists to a blogger; all of whom react in significantly different ways to the outbreak. Unlike most plots of this sort, there is no love story, and there's little-to-no joy. This is a bleak, explicitly detailed account of the possible fall of man; an apocalyptic medical drama told through the eyes of many - perhaps too many - individuals.
The virus is named Meningoencephalitis Virus One (abbreviated MEV-1). By the end, the source of the disease has been tracked, more or less successfully; although whether it's the scientists, or just us, making the progress is ambiguous. Let's just say that for us, it starts with a single woman; the first one we see in the film. She is Beth (Gwyneth Paltrow), and she is the wife of a kind man by the name of Mitch (Matt Damon). She was on a business trip when she contracted the disease; and only experienced the most severe of side effects - constant coughing, seizures, and eventual death - when she returned home. Luckily, it is soon revealed that Mitch is immune; although he must still take action if he wants to protect his children, like a good father should.
Mitch and his family are a big part of the plot, but an even bigger part of the plot is devoted to the science behind the virus and the potential cure. In the film, there are the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; where representatives meet and discuss the problems at hand. One of the doctors present is Dr. Ellis Cheever (Laurence Fishburne). He theorizes that the virus will spread now more than ever due to the fact that Thanksgiving is just around the corner; and thus, most people will be shopping. Door knobs shall be turned, credit cards shall be swiped, and faces will (of course) be touched. Cheever understands that they might not be able to save everyone, as always, but he decides to act upon his attempt to save those who he can regardless. To do so, he sends Dr. Erin Mears (Kate Winslet) to Minneapolis to conduct a search that shall hopefully lead to answers in regards to the true nature of this epidemic.
Then, there is the blogger. His name is Alan (Jude Law), and as you might be able to tell from his job/character description, he's the only individual in the story who doesn't really "fit in" with the others. He believes that he has found a cure for the disease, and takes precautions whenever he so much as exits his apartment every day, but his station in life isn't a well-respected one, and he's out to change that. He wants to prove something with his discovery of the cure; but will science bargain with him, and will the cure truly work? Those are two out of about a few solid dozen questions that you will come across if you choose to catch "Contagion".
Soderbergh's film is scary. That's what it wants to be; that's what it is. I liked how the director - who has gained both fame and genuine infamy over the years - chose to avoid just about any side-story, distraction, or inaccuracy that he could when he made the movie; there's relevance and accuracy in the science of the film, and that's precisely why the realism of every last situation gets under your skin. It also helps that Soderbergh's film is beautifully shot from start-to-finish, and some of the footage he captures is truly provocative. "Contagion" lashes out, fearlessly and with great aim; although in a few short instances, perhaps out of desperation.
This is not a great medical drama because even though it tries not to side-step, it still does. I said that the blogger character didn't really fit in, and that's because he doesn't; I felt his character was wholly unnecessary to the plot, and truth be told, it would have been much better without him. The dramatic elements of the story are also a disappointingly mixed bag; there are moments that are dead-on in their believability, and others that are just too, I don't know, cinematic. You can tell when drama is genuine and when it is staged; I'd rather have the former over the latter, and in his attempts to stay true and faithful to science, Soderbergh has failed to truly compel.
Nevertheless, he shook me up a bit, or at least for as long as I had wanted to be shook up at all. For that, I am grateful. "Contagion" is absorbing, engaging, and intriguing; unlike a lot of dramas, which are boring and drab. The story certainly needed the Soderbergh touch; and that's exactly what it got, a visual and contextual boost from a man who certainly knows his way around every obstacle of filmmaking. I can honestly recommend the film to those who enjoy a film that is though-provoking - albeit flawed - and above all, sort of fascinating. I watched the movie knowing that it could have been better; that it also could have been worse, and also that it had accomplished exactly what it had set out to do.
Steven Soderberg is one director who has a colorful and somewhat impressive resume; his best works include “Solaris”, “Ocean’s Eleven”, “Erin Brokovich”, and “Traffic” so I guess it would be easy to expect much from him. Soderbergh’s “Contagion” is a movie that can easily be ruined by expectations from its viewer. I tend to see a director as someone who is only as good as his last work, so I went to see it with an open mind. … more
CONTAGION Directed by Steven Soderbergh I’m not sure I can in good conscious recommend Contagion to anyone at all. It’s not that it’s a bad film; it’s just that seeing it has potentially damaging consequences on your psyche. About ten minutes into watching it, you might become hyper aware of your surroundings. Coughing noises will become amplified while your armrest might suddenly feel stickier than it did when you first sat down. In fact, by the time you’ve … more
Star Rating: In an age when medical thrillers are more about action sequences and gory makeup effects (Doomsday, the Resident Evil films), along comes Steven Soderbergh’s Contagion, a cold, methodical, observant social commentary. It takes us through the stages of a worldwide viral epidemic with eerily convincing logic, and with disturbing emotional detachment. It’s not about the art of storytelling so much as the craft of depicting a medical emergency … more
A couple of years ago, news and health agencies the world over were concerned about a possible pandemic stemming from bird flu and swine flu. Thankfully like SARS a few years earlier, the outbreaks were rather small thanks to a wealth of precautionary information and measures. In the new film “Contagion” director Steven Soderbergh paints a frighteningly realistic look at a worldwide pandemic that spread without warning, and its devastating aftermath. When businesswoman Beth Emhoff … more
By Joan Alperin Schwartz An international traveler reaches into the snack bowl at an airport bar before passing her credit card to a waiter. A business meeting begins with a round of handshakes. A man coughs on a crowded bus. One contact. One instant. And a lethal virus is transmitted. Great premise. Great beginning. but unfortunately, that's not enough to make a great film. 'Contagion' … more
Major yawn. The only reason I don't add more minuses is the acting was solid despite the general weakness of the story. This was too much an "inside" movie to be anything close to a thriller and the conspiracy storylines were too weak to rescue it as a conspiracy type movie.
Big cast, big story, big fear, lots of talk but little action. Despite being a big fan of Matt Damon, this is one movie where I don't think he excels in. In fact, you won't even notice he's there. Waste of talent, I feel. No punch. Not surprises. Nothing new here!
It's very likely that the only kind of reviews I'll ever post here are movie reviews. I'm very passionate about film; and at this point, it pretty much controls my life. Film gives us a purpose; … more
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