Ramascreen made it through the screening of the film and didn't get sick. He delivers another knock review. Please make sure to follow him on Facebook and Twitter.
(cough) CONTAGION and The Walking Dead put some attention back on Centers For Disease Control, just like Dan Brown’s book Deception Point and the recent movie Apollo 18 made NASA seem like it still matters somehow (cough), oh excuse me, I may have caught a bug or something (cough!).
CONTAGION is an ambitious paranoia movie that’s too big for its own good. Sure it has great Oscar worthy A-list talents but Soderbergh puts more focus on the symptoms and the lethal effect that the virus has on the characters than the characters themselves. It’s always a gamble when you’re dealing with such huge cast, you run the risk of paying little to no attention to some of them. And it’s probably just me but watching CONTAGION also feels like watching a boring series of montage…
When Beth Emhoff (Gwyneth Paltrow) returns to Minneapolis from business in Hong Kong, what she thought was jet lag takes a virulent turn. Two days later, she’s dead in the ER and the doctors tell her shocked and grieving husband (Matt Damon) they have no idea why.
Soon, others exhibit the same mysterious symptoms: hacking coughs and fever, followed by seizure, brain hemorrhage…and ultimately, death. In Minneapolis, Chicago, London, Paris, Tokyo and Hong Kong, the numbers quickly multiply: one case becomes four, then sixteen, then hundreds, thousands, as the contagion sweeps across all borders, fueled by the countless human interactions that make up the course of an average day.
A global pandemic explodes.
At the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, researchers mobilize to break the code of a unique biological pathogen as it continues to mutate. Deputy Director Cheever (Laurence Fishburne) tries to allay the growing panic despite his own personal concerns, and must send a brave young doctor (Kate Winslet) into harm’s way. At the same time, amid a rising tide of suspicion over a potential vaccine—and who gets it first—Dr. Leonora Orantes (Marion Cotillard) of the World Health Organization works through the network of connections that could lead back to the source of what they’re dealing with.
As the death toll escalates and people struggle to protect themselves and their loved ones in a society breaking down, one activist blogger (Jude Law) claims the public isn’t getting the truth about what’s really going on, and sets off an epidemic of paranoia and fear as infectious as the virus itself.
There are movies with scientific possibilities that help the audience who may not know much, to engage in the discussion and there are movies with scientific possibilities that bombard the audience with all kinds of terms and make them feel ignorant, sadly CONTAGION is the latter.
I was hoping that this could be one of those global-centric films like Babel and Inception that appreciate and use their diverse, international cast members to their fullest potential but Soderbergh just uses Tokyo, China, and England as nothing but brief settings, the actors don’t get to speak, aside from one or two, the film really is only about Fishburne, Damon, Cotillard, Paltrow, and Law.
Perhaps years from now, when the next generation doesn’t recognize any of these famous names anymore, perhaps then the movie would be recognized for its own merit, but for now, jampacking a film with so many famous names could be a distraction, such in the case of CONTAGION. You don’t care about the story anymore because you find yourself playing trivial pursuit the ‘hey that’s the actor from that one movie’ edition
Don’t get me wrong, CONTAGION has a great concept. I was actually looking forward to this movie, to see how the virus came to be, how it would escalate, and how it would subside. But I just think Scott Z. Burns’ script isn’t full and strong enough, plus I can’t help but think that this is sorta like Soderbergh’s in between gig, something for him to do to kill time before he moves on to a project that he really wants to do.
The montages get seriously annoying, not to mention that it’s obvious that Soderbergh just uses shots of facilities before they’re open for business, he tries to get that post-apocalyptic emptiness and abandonment but we’re not fooled.
The difference with Soderbergh’s Oscar winning film, Traffic, which was also an ensemble film, is that CONTAGION’s interconnecting stories are unsatisfying and when the characters cross paths, their shared screen time doesn’t serve any poignant appeal.
What I appreciate about CONTAGION is that in very brief and mild manner it displays some of the aftermath that a possible worldwide panic could cause, from looting to home invasion, but it still fails to explain some of the little details and instances like the wrist tags for example.
Another thing that I could appreciate about CONTAGION is that each of the key characters, whether they end up dead or alive, finish their stories with signs of caring. Winslet’s character, in her deathbed, still tries to give her blanket to a patient in her last minutes of life, Damon’s character reminisces and cherishes the memory of his wife, Law’s character learns a valuable lesson and makes his blogosphere mission about the people instead of himself. But at the same time, this could also be seen as scribe Burns’ final and desperate attempt to reach some kind of emotion and humanity in what otherwise is a very non-absorbing film
GRADE: 2 out of 5
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