Director: Steven Soderbergh
Writer: Scott Z. Burns
Country: USA, United Arab Emirates
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Time: 105 minutes
Genre: Action, Sci-Fi, Thriller
USA Release: 9/9/2011
On DVD (USA): 1/3/2012
Like any disaster movie, you wonder what your going to walk away thinking. Am I suppose to take it serious or is it really a joking matter? Many movies over the years have delivered both of those, along with other questions. And although this might have not been the smartest weekend to open, “Contagion” does have you walking away with the serious side of it…maybe a little too serious.
In “Contagion” we follow as the world is at the early stages of discovering a virus which quickly becomes an epidemic. The movie follows as Beth Emhoff (Gwyneth Paltrow) returns home from a business trip to Hong Kong thinking that she has just a normal flu or cold, what she doesn’t realize it that she is caring something that could kill everyone on the planet. After being home less then a day Beth collapses and has a seizure, and by then it is already too late. After arriving at the hospital with her husband Mitch Emhoff (Matt Damon) she soon dies from unknown causes. But that isn’t the only thing as Mitch suddenly gets a call from the baby sitter saying that something has happened to his son Clark Morrow (Griffin Kane), but by the time he returns home Clark has also died. Meanwhile over at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Dr. Ellis Cheever (Laurence Fishburne) and Dr. Erin Mears (Kate Winselt) are investigating similar reports that have come out of other areas around the world. After hearing about the case with Beth Emhorr, Dr. Mears gets sent over to interview and gather samples. Soon more and more people are starting to show symptoms, not even realizing what it is, and soon more people start to die as the worlds top scientist try to figure out first what they are dealing with and how they can stop it.
Although “Contagion” is set as a thriller, it isn’t that thrilling. Yes, there are times that the movie really grabs your attention, but it’s never on the edge of your seat. And even though I think that Steven Soderbergh did deliver a pretty good movie, there were still many time that it started to get pretty tedious. The pacing throughout the movie jumps from quick to sluggish almost as if they couldn’t decide what to really focus on, which just makes the movie feel a little unbalanced time wise. There are a few scenes I think could have been shaved down a little, but overall the problems mostly lie within the directing and writing. Speaking of the writing, although the story really portrays it as real life and does a great job of making all of this seem possible, the characters are never something which we can identify with. To us they are just almost disposable in a very predictable way, as characters dies do we feel at all sad about it?, no because we never really knew them and we are quickly pushed to the next story. Being an ensemble movie, you know that they are suppose to link in someway, in this it’s just through the virus and maybe that’s the problem, but having it be where they all know each other wouldn’t have been good either. As for the score, it filled the movie with creepy sinister like music, which worked well getting you to jump at all of the right times, using an almost techno fashion. Like you already know the movie is filled with a ensemble cast of many of today’s top actors. Breaking down the list we start with Marion Cotillard, who is great as always but her character is so minimal that she almost isn’t needed. Her character is a doctor helping on the overseas side trying to find out how and where it all started, but winds up in a hostage situation. That being said I almost walked out of the theater because of her story in the movie as it looked like it was going to turn into a espionage movie which luckily it didn’t but would have been a complete rip if it did.
Anyways, Matt Damon plays a family man who loses his wife and youngest child, and with the virus consuming more of the planet he doesn’t have time to grief as he has to protect his daughter by any means necessary, even if she ends up hating him. Damon also delivers a great performance as I guess you could say our medium showing us the fate that is left for those in middle and lower class structures, which looks almost post apocalyptic. Laurence Fishburne plays a doctor for the CDC who along with Kate Winslet’s character are trying to somehow corner this virus to figure out how to stop it. Fishburne did a pretty good job, but only shows his true talent when major events happen, in other scenes he tends to sleepwalk through. Jude Law was probably the best thing about this movie, although his character is a bit annoying, he still make a valid point, but doesn’t understand the power he starts to hold with the readers. Law plays a freelance writer/blogger who starts writing about the virus when he sees a video someone in Hong Kong posted, he is slightly ahead of the CDC as the story breaks. But his sudden popularity starts to cause mass panic as he posts about a cure that doesn’t really exists. There isn’t much to say about Gwyneth Paltrow’s performance as she is only around for a short while in the beginning and then only after in various flashbacks. So moving on Kate Winslet she played a doctor for the CDC who after the breakout starts to affect the United States gets sent to Minneapolis to study Beth Emhoff case and track her where abouts on her trip to figure out where exactly it started and who she could have spread it to. Winslet does a great job of trying to be professional even when having to ask tough questions. Jennifer Ehle plays one of the doctors researching the virus and trying to successfully grow it in order to find a cure. Although Ehle character is only around in a few scenes in the beginning, she starts to get more screen time as the virus reaches the 100 day mark, but even with a somewhat smaller role she delivers a pretty good performance.
Overall, “Contagion” may be fun for some, but for others it’s nothing they haven’t seen if they’re a fan of these kinds of movies. It gives you better entertainment then some of the summer movies had to offer, however doesn’t really bring anything new to the table except a great dying scene from Paltrow. If you’re a hypochondriac you should definitely stay away as the facts alone will put you in a frenzy. For everyone else, it might have you noticing a few coughs and sneezes afterwards but you won’t walk away feeling any different then if you watch a PSA on hygiene. Save your money and see something else, as it might be entertaining it’s better off as a rental.