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Review: Contagion

Contagion
09.08.2011
100%
8 10

PLOT: The progress of a deadly virus that wreaks worldwide havoc is followed through the interlocking stories of a father (Matt Damon) trying to protect his daughter, an irresponsible blogger (Jude Law) with an agenda, and four doctors (Laurence Fishburne, Kate Winslet, Jennifer Ehle, and Marion Cotillard) working with the CDC, who are trying to isolate and cure the disease before it wipes out a hefty chunk of the population.

REVIEW: OUTBREAK by way of TRAFFIC and SYRIANA, that's the best way to describe CONTAGION. For director Steven Soderbergh, it's his long-awaited return to high concept drama, after spending the last few years making tiny indies (THE GIRLFRIEND EXPERIENCE), and the occasional oddball farce (THE INFORMANT!), in-between threatening to retire.


Without a doubt, CONTAGION is his best film since TRAFFIC, although it definitely stops short of being the truly A-grade thriller it could be. Technically, CONTAGION is a perfect film. The first hour of the film is nothing short of riveting, with Soderbergh establishing the disease, and cast of characters at a breakneck pace, helped along by a tense score by Cliff Martinez. Soderbergh also doubles as the DP, and it's a breathtaking film to look at, and I'm sure it's even more impressive in the IMAX format it was shot in (I only got to see this in a conventional, albeit digital, theatre).

Given the cast, it's not much of a surprise for me to reveal that each actor is tremendous, with special praise going to Matt Damon, who, in a brave choice, underplays until a cathartic scene later in the film. For the majority of the run-time, he's too busy to grieve or panic, with his sole mission being to protect his daughter, from both disease, and his increasingly panicked fellow citizens. Pound for pound, I think Damon is one of the best A-list actors we've got, and once again he proves his mettle.


Laurence Fishburne also gets his best role in years as the compassionate head of the CDC, whose innate humanity may in fact be his downfall, with his government minders (Enrico Colantoni & Bryan Cranston) using him as the fall guy any time anything bad happens. While not getting star billing, Jennifer Ehle also has a major role as Fishburne's go-to doctor, who has the kind of heroic streak I'd pray any doctor working for the CDC would in fact have.

Jude Law also has a meaty part as a firebrand blogger who's convinced the CDC is hiding a potential cure in order to make pharmaceutical companies rich. He's surprisingly believable in his part, and after a few years of unfortunate over-exposure, he seems to be making a strong comeback.

Of the main actors, only Marion Cotillard gets short-shrifted, with it seeming like a good chunk of her role has been removed- which is a shame as her plot, where she's held hostage by a village in China desperate for medical attention, is intriguing. Kate Winslet and Gwyneth Paltrow also both good in their respective roles, although they're two of the more one-dimensional roles offered in the film (although Winslet has a touching scene involving a blanket later in the film that I thought was very effective).


The only real problem with CONTAGION is that, in an effort to streamline his film and make it as concise and entertaining as possible, Soderbergh's left out some of what makes a film like CONTAGION so involving, mainly the human aspect. At 100 minutes, CONTAGION seems too short for the type of sprawling, multi-narrative drama it positions itself as, and if in fact there's a longer version of the film out there somewhere, I hope it sees the light of day. Meanwhile, were left with a lot of science, which is interesting, but should have taken a backseat to the emotional possibilities offered by a story like this.

As it is, CONTAGION is still a very effective and entertaining thriller. To me, something like this, which is all too plausible, is much more frightening than a traditional horror flick. At one point in the film, an audience member coughed, and I could hear people gasping, which, if anything, is proof that the film packs a punch, even if it's ultimately less than what it could have been. That said, eighty percent of a great movie is better than one-hundred percent of a bad one.

CLICK IMAGE TO OPEN GALLERY & SEE MORE PICS...

Extra Tidbit: Warner Bros., should be selling bottles of Purell and every theater playing this. They'd make a fortune!
Source: JoBlo.com

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9:38PM on 09/09/2011

WOW.

This movie did what I wanted it to disturbed me and freak me the fuck out. :) congrats, i was worried over the PG-13 rating, but fear not they pull some stuff off in the first 10 mins of this film that an R rated film will never do. Congrats to that, some pretty creepy stuff, and it's all real, I was freaked to go to the bathroom after and be around people Its and hour after the showing now and I am home and still freaked out. Highly highly go see this.
This movie did what I wanted it to disturbed me and freak me the fuck out. :) congrats, i was worried over the PG-13 rating, but fear not they pull some stuff off in the first 10 mins of this film that an R rated film will never do. Congrats to that, some pretty creepy stuff, and it's all real, I was freaked to go to the bathroom after and be around people Its and hour after the showing now and I am home and still freaked out. Highly highly go see this.
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7:17PM on 09/08/2011
This movie does look intruiging just by the big name cast alone much like Traffic which was a great movie with all the intersecting stories, this one has the same vibe. Whats great about movies like this is that it can happen in real life & also realisitically you can't just focus on certain people but the epidemic itself.
This movie does look intruiging just by the big name cast alone much like Traffic which was a great movie with all the intersecting stories, this one has the same vibe. Whats great about movies like this is that it can happen in real life & also realisitically you can't just focus on certain people but the epidemic itself.
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+6
12:33PM on 09/08/2011

Let's hope for entertainment...

I hope this is just a story the way Hollywood used to tell stories, to keep us entertained through either suspense, or fear, or drama.
What I don't want is for this to be a "message" film about the ills of the government, "global warming", or those mean military people. (See: Outbreak)
I just want to go in, watch it, and be entertained. We have enough political messages being thrown at us day after day on the internet and 24 hour news.
I hope this is just a story the way Hollywood used to tell stories, to keep us entertained through either suspense, or fear, or drama.
What I don't want is for this to be a "message" film about the ills of the government, "global warming", or those mean military people. (See: Outbreak)
I just want to go in, watch it, and be entertained. We have enough political messages being thrown at us day after day on the internet and 24 hour news.
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+2
11:04AM on 09/08/2011
Great review. Bumbray is very concise and his observations are enlightening. His reviews could use a little more personal reflection but that is a minor complaint. I am excited to see the movie and hope an extended version is offered when it comes out on Blu Ray.
Great review. Bumbray is very concise and his observations are enlightening. His reviews could use a little more personal reflection but that is a minor complaint. I am excited to see the movie and hope an extended version is offered when it comes out on Blu Ray.
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10:01AM on 09/08/2011

In agreement for the most part

I saw this at a screening last night and thought it was decent. It is indeed much more alarming than normal "horror" movies today, due to its stark realism. However, I was slightly more critical of its emotional detachment and uneven story structure than Chris, giving it 7.5/10. For my full review, check here: [link]
I saw this at a screening last night and thought it was decent. It is indeed much more alarming than normal "horror" movies today, due to its stark realism. However, I was slightly more critical of its emotional detachment and uneven story structure than Chris, giving it 7.5/10. For my full review, check here: [link]
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9:32AM on 09/08/2011
Great review!! The fact that this kind of thing can actually happen is what makes these movies so much more frightening than a lot of movies out there.
Great review!! The fact that this kind of thing can actually happen is what makes these movies so much more frightening than a lot of movies out there.
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9:24AM on 09/08/2011
Totally agreed that films like this are far more frightening than any horror film because it could actually happen. This is one of the reasons why JAWS remains such a scary film because there are fucking sharks that big in the world.
Totally agreed that films like this are far more frightening than any horror film because it could actually happen. This is one of the reasons why JAWS remains such a scary film because there are fucking sharks that big in the world.
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