Old 10-21-2011, 09:51 PM

Everybody gets sick. However serious it may be, itís an inescapable fate that strikes us all. With his latest film Contagion, director Steven Soderbergh has opted to strike fear with a realistic look at just how fast and deadly a spreading virus can be. Several years back when the bird flu and swine flu threatened a possible pandemic, society braced for the worst and Soderbergh, tapping into that uneasy state of mind we all felt, has managed to create an uneasy sense of realism for the film before the first frame has even appeared.

That first frame belongs to Beth Emhoff (Gwyneth Paltrow), a business woman returning home from a work function in Hong Kong with what appears to be a case of the flu. When we first see Beth, pale and sickly in her appearance, itís Day Two of what will ultimately be a worldwide epidemic. After she collapses in the kitchen of the suburban Minneapolis home she shares with husband Mitch (Matt Damon), she is rushed to hospital where she unexpectedly dies. The doctors are at a loss as to what killed her.
In the following days more and more people become ill and die (showcased in an impressive sequence detailing the events leading up to each victimís fatality) which leads the national and international disease control organisations to work overtime to try to trace, identify and treat the mysterious ailment that is sweeping the globe. One of the people leading the charge is Dr. Ellis Cheever (Laurence Fishburne) who works for the Centre of Disease Control and Prevention in the US. He is called upon by the Department of Homeland Security when it is suspected that the disease is possibly being used as a bio-weapon to infect the masses over the Thanksgiving weekend. To track the origins of the virus, Cheever calls in Dr. Erin Mears (Kate Winslet) to investigate who Beth came into contact with on her trip whilst the World Health Organisation sends in Dr. Leonora Orantes (Marion Cotillard) to visit Hong Kong.

Cities quickly crumble towards chaos as the virus spreads and there is no sign of a cure in sight, and even when it is eventually identified, the unique nature of its origins means a vaccine isnít at the ready and in waiting for it to come to fruition, thousands more die. Eventually authorities, desperate in their inability to properly deal with what they are facing, turn to closing state borders, effectively quarantining their own cities to prevent the virus spreading.

Adding to the chaos and confusion is blogger, and all-round conspiracy theorist, Alan Krumweide (Jude Law, uglied up with a crooked tooth and sporting a frustrating English/Aussie accent) who amasses a following when he calls out the government and pharmaceutical companies for withholding a cure, a homeopathic drug called forsythia.

With so many characters involved in the plethora of simultaneous sub-stories that have been stranded together, youíd be forgiven for thinking ĎContagioní is a hard film to keep track of, and whilst Soderbergh has assembled an impressive line-up of talent, which also features Bryan Cranston, Elliott Gould and John Hawkes, itís ultimately the filmís downfall as characters fall by the wayside. Damon, Fishburne and Law end up with the meatiest roles and they all play them to a tee. Watching Damon as a father holding on to his one remaining child, doing whatever he can to keep her safe all the while battling grief over the loss of his wife and son, is heartbreaking to watch, and a great reminder of just how strong an actor he is. Winslet and Paltrow both stay strong, though in Paltrowís case it isnít for too long, but Cotillard unfortunately falls victim to the cutting room floor as her arc involving her character being held prisoner in a Hong Kong village is barely fleshed out and a shameful waste of her talents.

With a bit of tweaking Contagion had the potential to be an extremely taut thriller, but even as it stands youíll be hard pressed to find a more effective film this year. You could even call this one of the yearís scariest films as it presents horror in its true form, and given that a cough from an audience member resulted in uneasy mumbles from those around them, it looks like itís doing its job.

More reviews on my site: http://ratedpdg.tumblr.com/
Follow me on Twitter: @ratedpdg
Reply With Quote


Thread Tools
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off

Forum Jump