Justin does Contagion

“Someone doesn’t have to weaponize the bird flu.The birds are doing that.”

The Scoop: 2011 PG-13, directed by Steven Soderbergh and starring Matt Damon, Laurence Fishburne, and Gwyneth Paltrow

Tagline: Don’t talk to anyone. Don’t touch anyone.

Summary Capsule: Killer pandemic starts small, goes global, and Paltrow continues to play the role of the victim.

Justin’s Rating: Ah-CHOO *yer dead*

Justin’s Review: Contagion is one of those movies that you wind up thinking about the morning after seeing it, mulling over various aspects of pandemics and social breakdowns and why Laurence Fishburne is like 400 pounds now.  Wasn’t he pretty trim in The Matrix?  And then it was a shock to see him as a very stocky survivalist in Predators, and now this.  I don’t know if I can adjust my worldview to accept this new paradigm.

It’s not to say that Contagion is a great movie, by any means.  It’s a solid effort that perhaps pulls its punches a little too much in some areas, ignores focusing on things that you’d really, really like to see, and its lack of a primary protagonist makes it difficult to stay attached to anyone here.  But it is a movie that’s perhaps a much more believable horror film than any slasher you’ll see involving teenagers, death traps, and jumping cats.

I’ll admit to having a morbid fascination with potentially lethal outbreaks of diseases, a topic that powers a small but persistent sub-genre of films (see: The Stand, Outbreak, Andromedia Strain).  What if the 21st century equivalent of the plague hit us worldwide — and despite our best efforts, we were unable to stop its spread?  I mean, it’s already happened, albeit in less theatrically cool ways, so it’s not outside the realm of possibility.

Instead of taking the “ain’t fighting viruses cool?” approach of Outbreak, Contagion is more of a bleak study of how a global pandemic could arise (in this case, from a US visitor to Hong Kong), spread rapidly, and stymie the doctors and scientists tasked with identifying and countering it.  Because the disease, MEV-1, is spread by both breathing and touching things, the film lingers on objects and people the infected have touched to show how utterly impossible it is to keep it all under wraps.

There’s a lot of famous actors in this film who look a lot less glamorous and “actory” than normal, which led me to keep thinking “Boy that guy looks a lot like Jude Law!”  “Huh, Kate Winslet has a twin sister somewhere!” without putting the pieces together until halfway through.  I’m dense like that.  And poor Gweneth Paltrow — if you felt bad for her fate in Se7en but oddly wanted more Paltrow suffering and death, then head (heh) on over here.  She excels in dying, I guess.

Contagion definitely felt more “real” than other epidemic films I’ve seen, although the partial breakdown of civilization didn’t ever feel that scary, nor did the movie go out of its way to show us more than a handful of the millions and millions of people dying because of the virus.  I noticed more trash on the streets than anything else, which just felt surreal.  It could’ve used more bite than it had, and I would’ve definitely appreciated a perspective from the government/FEMA side of things rather than just one ordinary dude and a few of the CDC folks.

I highly recommend that you gather together all of the germophobes in your life and then watch this to see how they freak out.  It’s kind of a two-for-one special at that point, and you can’t beat that deal!

What is it about the end of the world that makes everyone so dang messy?

Intermission!

  • The main cast contains an extraordinarily high number of actors who have been nominated for or who have won Academy Awards
  • This is the first film that Gwyneth Paltrow, Matt Damon and Jude Law have worked together in since The Talented Mr. Ripley. However, Law doesn’t have any scenes with either, and Damon and Paltrow barely share the screen together for a minute.

Groovy Quotes

Dr. Ian Sussman: Blogging is not writing. It’s just graffiti with punctuation.

Alan Krumwiede: It’s a bad day to be a rhesus monkey.

Dr. Ellis Cheever: Someone doesn’t have to weaponize the bird flu.The birds are doing that.

If You Liked This, Try These:

  • Outbreak
  • The Stand
  • 28 Days Later
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4 Comments

  1. Just saw Contagion and genuinely gave me the heebie geebies. How easily a virus can be spread mixed with human stupidity and tied up with a nice red tape bow was kinda spooky. I agree though, there was something about it that it held itself back in some places keeping from being particularly memorable or great.

    My thing was some of the decisions that would’ve never happened in real life. Like telling the guy to get off the bus instead of sending the cops to quarantine the bus ’til CDC got there. Or show one scene where they’re complaining they have nowhere to put more people, but then showing the empty airport terminals (those would’ve been so commandeered). Just when I’d get into the movie, something would take me out of it with a logic check.

    And then there were ideas that just didn’t go far enough, the internet focal point, the woman off of Inception, no Last Man On Earth fire pits for bodies (You mean to tell me we’re digging 10 foot deep mass graves in Minnesota in January?)

    And why’d all the women except Kate Winslet come off as stoopid?

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