Contagion (starring Matt Damon and Marion Cotillard)
A deadly virus is rapidly spreading throughout the world. As the government is quickly trying to find a cure by identifying the source, the rest of the nations try their best to avoid all contact with others and survive mass hysteria.
Steven Soderbergh’s CONTAGION follows several different characters played by an array of movie stars. With an obvious comparison to 1995’s OUTBREAK from director Wolfgang Petersen, CONTAGION tends to follow a slightly more technical realistic view and expands the epidemic in several major cities throughout the world rather than keeping it locked down in one location. Soderbergh masterfully captures the virus spread by allowing the camera to linger on where people use their hands and put their lips. As the days continue and the death toll rises, the tension mounts upon the urgency to find a cure. Helping enforce that tension and pushing the film forward is the powerful score. With an eerily repetitive techno sound that you might find in a Science Fiction film, the music is the perfect catalyst for a very real scenario in a present day film with what feels like futuristic proportions.
Unlike Soderbergh’s brilliantly directed TRAFFIC that also follows a large ensemble cast, I never felt attached to any of the characters or invested into what these people were doing. The search for the source was interesting and the different quests of the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and World Health Organization (WHO) trying to contain the problem were educational. But the amount of time spent with each one was too minimal to emotionally care for them personally.
Thankfully most of the cast is wisely comprised of major stars in order to fool the audience into thinking they know the characters. Jude Law is good as a conspiracy theorist blogger trying to bring the supposed truth surrounding the virus. Laurence Fishburne, Marion Cotillard, Elliot Gould and Kate Winslet are all fine as different doctors trying to find a solution to the crisis. The problem is these characters are interesting only, but not necessarily relatable. We sort of like them because they are played by a recognizable actor, not because they are deeply developed. The one exception is Matt Damon, who plays a family man whose wife (Gwyneth Paltrow) and son are the first victims of the deadly virus. Fighting to keep his remaining daughter free from infection and safe from the general population running mad with fear, Damon is magnificent as usual. In fact, I would have preferred to see more of these possible reactions from the public when they know their lives are in danger. Although many things felt slightly glossed over, CONTAGION touched on many relevant topics that were all shocking yet understandable.
While extremely well put together technically, the film lacked a certain heart and passion to propel it to greatness. There are no huge scenes and I doubt this is a film I would ever revisit, however CONTAGION is a fascinating, frightening and eye opening look at how easily a virus can be transferred and the possible outbreak consequences that may follow. Now if you will excuse me I need to go wash my hands.