Reviews & Previews - Contagion

Posted on Friday, September 23, 2011 at 06:00 PM


By: S. Tran

Starring:  Matt Damon, Laurence Fishburne, Jude Law, Kate Winslet
Director: Steven Soderbergh
Running time: 106 minutes
Rated: PG-13

A Thoughtful End of the World

Leave it to Steven Soderbergh to turn an end of the world virus outbreak into a slow, thoughtful character study. Contagion is a a different kind of virus movie. It is personal, up close and, in some respects, scarier than your typical outbreak film. It has Soderbergh's stamp as director all over it and is a worthy addition to his resume.
Taking place in the present day the movie follows the course of a virus that claims its first victim only minutes into the movie. As we slowly get news reports about what is happening around the world the movie sets up like a typical scary infection story. Along the way though a funny thing happens. Instead of getting bigger, the movie gets smaller.

With a situation like the one presented in the film you have two kinds of fear. There is the one shared by the masses as the bodies pile up. Then there is the more personal fear, the one where you look at the person sitting next to you, your child lying in the crib or the loved one who starts to show symptoms. Soderbergh understands that the first kind of fear has been done and is so well understood that he doesn't need to spend a lot of time on that. It's the very personal fear that will resonate with the audience.

Damon stars as Mitch, an unemployed husband who experiences the virus early and finds out that he is immune to the deadly new virus. This revelation is bittersweet however, as he is one of the few lucky ones. As the movie progresses we see his struggle to deal with loss and to make sense of events that he has no control over. As our everyman, we emphasize with him as he is rendered impotent by the actions of the government and officials who begin implementing measures to control the virus. His helplessness carries as much weight as the global crisis erupting all around him.

Even a character like Fishburne, who plays the CDC doctor Cheevers in charge of trying to find a vaccine for the virus, spends the majority of his time worrying about his people. Whether it is the doctor he sends out into the field (Winslet) or his wife who he wants to desperately protect, Cheevers role as the scientist takes a backseat to his role as a friend and husband.

All this is not to say that the film does not provide some bigger drama. We do experience some of the mass panic, looting and breakdown of society. The movie also spans the globe. While the main story takes place in the U.S. there is also a subplot that takes place in China. Combining these larger elements with the personal stories really fills out the movie.

If you enjoyed Traffic or Syriana then you will probably like this movie. Contagion has a very similar feel to those films and shares the same sense pf pacing and great acting. 
4 stars out of 5.

S. Tran also writes at, and


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