Review: Contagion

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.

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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