Contagion Directed by: Steven Soderbergh Cast: Matt Damon, Kate Winslet, Jude Law, Gwyneth Paltrow, Laurence Fishburne Running Time: 1 hr 45 mins Rating: PG-13 Release Date: September 9, 2011
PLOT: A woman (Paltrow) gets a new disease on a business trip and brings it back to the States. When it begins to spread, the entire world must react.
WHO'S IT FOR? It's a drama that focuses on the technical aspects of an epidemic.
EXPECTATIONS: I knew Soderbergh, Damon and Paltrow were involved, it was about an epidemic, and Paltrow probably wouldn't last very long in the film. I also knew there were some other big names involved. That's it. I assumed Soderbergh wouldn't bother with simply remaking Outbreak.
Matt Damon as Mitch Emhoff: If you need an emotional connection to a "disease is killing the world movie," he is it. Mitch's wife and step son are affected by what eventually becomes known as MEV-1. Now he must keep his daughter safe among the chaos. Damon can make me feel compassionately connected more than any other actor and he nails the confusion of doctor's giving him bad news. Please keep in mind this, and every role in the film, does feel limited. The disease, not any one actor, is on display here. Score: 8
Jude Law as Alan Krumwiede: A truth teller or a snake oil salesman? Alan is a popular blogger trying to uncover the truth behind the disease. Law once again proves he's a really good character actor stuck with leading man looks. This time he adds a crooked tooth to dirty himself up. Score: 7
Laurence Fishburne as Dr. Ellis Cheever: Cheever is in charge of the Center for Disease Control (CDC), and we get to see just how lost a man in charge can feel. I'm not sure if Fishburne put on the extra weight for this role, but it works as a man looking a little beaten by the system. Score: 7
Kate Winslet as Dr. Erin Mears: Cheever sends Mears to Minnesota to deal with one of the first outbreaks of the disease. She doesn't have time to feel anything since she's working in overdrive to try and contain the spread. Watching her deal with local government officials is actually more cringe worthy than some of the sickness. Score: 7
Rest of Cast: There's not technically too many to count but it does feel that way. John Hawkes is Roger. He's just a janitor. That's all. It feels a little ho-hum compared to the rest of the stories and I never connected to Cheever's relationship to Roger. Elliott Gould shows up as Dr. Ian Sussman, helps study the disease and then disappears. Seems like a waste. Marion Cotillard plays Dr. Leonora Orantes and it seems like much of her role was left on the cutting room floor. Demetri Martin is Dr. David Eisenberg and it's simply fun to see him in the lab working. Gwyneth Paltrow as Beth Emhoff crushes the competition in the "acting sick" department. When Bryan Cranston shows up I actually chuckled with the amount of big names with limited roles. While it's nice to see some of these faces, it never felt like I needed these names involved to make me interested. Score: 6
TALKING: Sure, there is some science we just won't understand (or at least I won't understand) but the film is pretty good about showing/explaining the progression of the disease. Fear is the main emotion here, and I could have used a little more heartfelt sadness. I did get chills when the line, "Call everyone" is uttered and you realize this disease is out of control. Score: 6
SIGHTS: What a great looking epidemic! OK, let me rephrase, the film looks great. The disease looks like any actual god-awful flu. The streets are eventually overrun (zombie style). The suits for getting into the Bio Safety Level 4 Lab are awesome. The dire situation really is great to watch unfold. Score: 8
SOUNDS: Synth and/or techno ring throughout most of the musical score and really help in stepping up the pace of the film. U2 finishes things off with "All I Want is You" and while it's a good song, it doesn't necessarily fit like a surgical glove. Score: 6
BEST SCENE: An almost first kiss has never quite been like this. Mitch chases down his daughter who has gone to hang out with her boyfriend. Worry and humor are on display with something so simple.
ENDING: I love the loop effect created with the disease. Getting to see Day 1 does feel absolutely right, especially with how simple it is.
QUESTIONS: Why make Paltrow's character such a villain? I'd love to know why Soderbergh wanted to have Beth cheating on Mitch. I assume Orantes heads back to the village to continue her Stockholm Syndrome.
REWATCHABILITY: Sure. There's no true motivation to see it again, but if a friend wanted to watch, I'd sit through it again.
Contagion is a zombie movie without zombies. After all, aren't all "intelligent" zombie flicks based on the infected nowadays?
Since we don't have the walking dead (unless you count the politicians - zing!) we have a well-done procedural that should properly scare you into never touching anything ever again.
We don't have a lead actor here, though MEV-1 (the disease) probably demands top billing. We have fear and confusion showcased through everyone from the people in charge to a father protecting a daughter. We have people comparing MEV-1 to the overreaction that happened with H1N1, and a possible cure from a guy on the Internet. This film covers all of its bases.
Contagion left me a little cold, only getting a few moments to feel emotionally attached to these characters. But then again, I didn't touch the hand rail on the way out of the theater. The fear factor is definitely there with Contagion, even if the zombies aren't.
FINAL SCORE: 7/10