MARION COTILLARD MATT DAMON LAWRENCE FISHBURNE JUDE LAW GWENYTH PALTROW KATE WINSLET
C O N T A G I O N
He used to turn films out quite frequently, but lately Oscar winning director Steven Soderbergh has been careful with his projects. One of those hit and miss directors, his Che project was seen by hardly anyone due to it's length while The Informant was one of his zanier films. Known for his ability to bring in the best actors, Soderbergh is also an expert on ensemble films (Traffic, Ocean’s Eleven). Contagion, however, seems like an odd choice for the director. It's brutal honesty and brilliant execution make it a top notch thriller, a fantastic performance piece and, at times, a moving drama. It’s hard to say who gave the best performance, so I will single out Soderbergh once again for assembling such a smart and unforgettable film.
When Beth Emhoff (Paltrow) returns home to Minnesota from her business trip in Hong Kong, she is sick; her symptoms get worse and, after her husband (Damon) rushes her to the hospital she becomes the first death in a virus that is spread through touch. Governments throughout the world begin tracking outbreaks, attempting to discover where it came from and how to stop it, but people everywhere become sick. Medical masks and gloves become standard attire, and in less than two months, millions of people have died and even more are sick. A popular blogger (Law) insists the governments are not being honest about what is going on, claiming conspiracy. Doctors like Erin Mears (Winslet) race to try and prevent more outbreaks than necessary, and to figure out why Beth’s husband didn’t contract the virus.
The majority of ensemble films feel choppy and uneven because they are; something happens in the editing room that doesn’t allow the director and creative team to seamlessly put together a coherent film with their bits and pieces. Soderbergh, however, is a master at this and proves it better than he ever has before with this script, written by Scott Burns (The Bourne Ultimatum, The Informant). Where other films similar to this (Outbreak, 28 Days Later or the recent Planet of the Apes) rely on the supernatural or the unexplained, Soderbergh, along with Consultant Dr. Lipkin, Ian - director of Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health, ensure everything put on that screen is completely realistic and backed with research and protocol, making the viewer squirm.
Soderbergh has chosen the right actors for each role; Damon’s character is the identifiable part of the film while Fishburne represents the political side, Winslet the medical side, and science, foreign relations, technology, and so on are all represented in one segment or another. The camera, in some instances, almost becomes a third eye as it will often zoom in on something that has just been infected like a door handle or a coffee mug. Even CNN medical correspondent Sanjay Gupta makes an appearance to drive home the realism even further. It's one downfall is that you probably won’t want to watch it twice.
Final Thought – Pure fascination on every level.
By: Dustin Chase W.
Editor: Michael Woody
Dr. Donna Copeland’s
This is something like a social anthropology picture of the reactions of people and the intricate workings of organizations during a time of world crisis. Sometimes it brings out the best; sometimes the worst in people, and mob violence is easily provoked. It is a time when trust in government and its agencies is tested and usually found wanting. Nowadays, the media plays a large role—not just the radio and TV channels, but bloggers on the internet as well. The writer, Scott Burns, and Steven Soderburgh, the director and cinematographer, do a fine job in bringing out all these aspects of human nature and the workings of society in the story.
The viewer gets engaged immediately as we see Gwyneth Paltrow making her way home from a business trip to Hong Kong and greeting her family when she arrives. We are shown clips of a fewother people as well, going about their daily lives, being close, shaking hands, hugging, and coughing in others’ faces—all of which clearly paints a picture of c-o-n-t-a-g-i-o-n.
We are given enough anecdotes about each of the main characters for us to care about them, and have some idea about how such an event would affect us personally. As exciting as it is—like a detective novel—we’re also aware that it is plausible that such things could happen in real life. The film-makers do an excellent job in showing how governments and their agencies function in such a situation and the challenges they face, not only in coming up with a solution, but adequately informing citizens along the way. News media can be helpful
—is entirely essential—but it can be just as self-serving as some in official positions.
Acting is top notch, as expected with such a stellar cast.