Although this Steven Soderbergh thriller is a bit dated, its subject matter couldn’t be any more timely. As the Coronavirus continues to make headlines and possibly touch the lives of people we know, a sense of fear is expected. For me, the manufactured fear found in movies is a necessary antidote.
Contagion suffices (for now).
We start with a black screen and hear a couple of sickly “coughs.”
The madness for germaphobes like myself begins…
Gwyneth Paltrow is the one doing the yacking at an airport bar, and she doesn’t look good as sweat drips down her forehead. The camera keeps track of everything she touches: peanuts in a tray, her cocktail, the counter, her phone, etc. Within five minutes of the movie, she dies of an unknown viral infection. (That’s pretty quick for an Oscar nominated actress!)
She is not alone, and within the first captivating 15 minutes of the movie, we meet similar victims as well as key players in the fight against the worldwide epidemic: Dr. Ellis Cheever (Laurence Fishburne) of the Center of Disease Control; Dr. Mears (Kate Winslet) of the Epidemic Intelligence Service; and Dr. Hextall (Jennifer Ehle – a freaky close Meryl Streep doppelganger), who will do anything to create a vaccine cure.
This is the kind of film that must be a nightmare for directors to forecast, as multiple intertwining narratives shot around the world have to be tied together coherently. By using communication mediums from the internet to broadcast videoconferencing, Director Steven Soderbergh successfully merges the fast-paced chain of events to the characters’ relationships. Some work (Matt Damon plays a believable grieving parent in Minnesota) and some don’t (Jude Law’s role as a conspiracy theorist couldn’t be any more unbelievable).
Contagion rings episodic in the middle, and some of the dialogue is executed robotically, but it’s still entertaining fare with an urgent message: With Coronavirus looming, don’t forget to wash your hands and consider blogging as a new pastime.
Contagion (2011) *** out of *****