Director: Steven Soderbergh
Writer: Scott Z. Burns
Cast: Matt Damon, Gwyneth Paltrow, Laurence Fishburne, Kate Winslet, Bryan Cranston, Marion Cottillard, Brian Cox, Jude Law
Plot Summary: A thriller centered on the threat posed by a deadly disease and an international team of doctors contracted by the CDC to deal with the outbreak. [IMDB]
Contagion is a pretty unique film to try and sell to audiences nowadays. Typically, what most audiences think of with a film centered on a disease is that there’s something else to it. That “something” is typically supernatural in the case of zombies or the undead. The last film that comes to mind dealing with a disease is M. Night Shyamalan’s The Happening (2008). Even with that film, there was a belief of something supernatural up until the infamous M. Night twist at the end. So with a film that is focused solely on a disease, there has to be something that sells it and with this film it really looks like the cast was the main selling point.
It’s really difficult to try and describe this film through plot and story. It is more of a cinematic possibility— if there ever were an outbreak of a deadly, viral epidemic humanity has no cure for. The film is a myriad of stories involving several key characters that are linked to the virus named MEV-1, and because of that, there is a difficulty finding a character to relate to. There is Matt Damon’s character who is the husband to the first victim of the virus and how he and his surviving daughter deal with it. The film never goes as far as it could have since the film isn’t a story focused solely on them surviving the deadly epidemic.
No, this film is more about the epidemic itself and how society reacts to a deadly virus that has no cure. You could say that this film is more of a realistic cautionary tale of how society can devolve so quickly from its picture perfect image of itself. And on that level, the film succeeds above and beyond in delivering that message. Contagion is a hauntingly, plausible view of just how depraved society can become due to fear and paranoia as it really becomes a story of every man and woman for themselves in this film.
Because of that, even the scientists who fight to find a cure as quickly as possible end up not being empathetic characters that the audience can root for. At the same time, they become very realistic characters as you or I would do the exact same things they did if put in their situation.
Now, the film takes place over the course of several months with different sections dealing with different points in the outbreak and each segment has its ups and downs. What can be said about the film as a whole is that it feels like it drags its feet. The film is slow paced, despite the fast work of the virus and it can bore audiences not prepared to deal with a lengthy film.
What does help pass the time is an exceptional soundtrack. It was surprisingly fitting and really set the mood of the film. The acting as well was great, despite the inconsistent balance of screen time among the cast. Each actor represents different factions of how humanity would act in the face of such a crisis and are all portrayed exceptionally. The main downside, though, is that for some people, the actors in their roles do feel kind of redundant as you have seen them be that person before.
Lastly, the only other negative point I can say about the film is how it wraps itself up. Contagion does a great job of keeping the audience guessing where the virus originated, but the way they real the origins of MEV-1 does come off as rather lazy and hastily done. It’d be hard to explain it any other way and I understand that, but the execution of the reveal itself at the end just wasn’t that great.
Overall Contagion is a pretty entertaining film and a great cautionary tale of just how depraved humanity can become when faced with a crisis it can’t handle or comprehend. It’s a great look at how society works and how people act and react in those situations. I wouldn’t recommend it for everyone, but if it’s up your alley of interest than by all means go see it.
GO Rating: 3.5/5