Director: Steven Soderbergh
Starring: Matt Damon, Gwyneth Paltrow, Kate Winslet, Laurence Fishburne, Jude Law
How often do you wash your hands? After you’ve used the bathroom? Touched money? Coughed? Shook hands with an acquaintance? I think we naturally forget about how many germs, diseases, bacterias, and viruses we come across on a daily basis. You may think you have a strong immune system, but that doesn’t mean everyone does. Contagion is another entry in the gritty genre of pandemic virus movies like Outbreak or The Andromeda Strain. Picking up on Day 2, Beth Emhoff (Paltrow) is traveling home to Minneapolis from a business trip in Hong Kong. She is feeling sick, but doesn’t think much of it. Two days later she dies of seizures. Her husband, Mitch (Damon), is confused and doesn’t understand how his wife suddenly dies from seizures after only being home for a few days. A couple of days later their son also dies of similar symptoms. Across the world people are massively dying at an alarming speed.
Dr. Ellis Cheever (Fishburne) of the Center of Disease Control and Prevention hires Dr. Erin Mears (Winslet) to head to Minneapolis to track down and investigate the origin of how Beth obtained the virus. During her time in Minneapolis, Dr. Mears spends time with Mitch to pin point Beth’s timeline in Hong Kong. Mitch and their daughter have found out that they are immune. As they try to flee town, they are forced back in as they are quarantined in Minneapolis. Dr. Mears finds out she has been infected after spending time in her hotel room. Alan Krumwiede (Law) was infected by the virus but believes he was cured by a herbal remedy from the forsythia plant. He informs his blog followers and starts a following of conspirators. They believe Cheever and the rest of government are hiding the truth about the disease and a known vaccine. Dr. Cheever struggles to maintain control under the pressure. The disease is spreading, and the vaccine is in limited supply. The vaccine is being delivered to people via a lottery system. Marion Cotillard, Bryan Cranston, Sanaa Lathan, Enrico Colantoni, Jennifer Ehle, Demetri Martin, Elliott Gould, and John Hawkes all have supporting roles in this big ensemble movie.
Contagion is a pretty gritty look at what happens when the world becomes overtaken by a deadly disease. I was reminded of what happened when H1N1 and the swine flu started making people sick. People had a wide range of emotions and feelings about the severity of it. I really appreciated Soderbergh’s commentary on the range of people’s reactions. It’s fascinating watching people break into pharmacies and grocery stores thinking it was the end of days to the polar opposite where people believe it’s a huge government cover-up. You can’t help but take notice how often the camera focuses on any and everything we touch like our faces, hand rails, doors, other people, money, and food. Like most of Soderbergh’s ensemble dramas, he gets strong performances out of his actors even in small roles. Matt Damon, Kate Winslet, and Jude Law all excel in their roles. I think Matt Damon is very underrated. I think the “Matt & Ben” aura around them doesn’t always give him the credit he deserves. With every character, he gives strong performances with specific choices for each situation that makes each of his characters very different. I found the movie to drag a bit at times and wondered where they would end the story. It is not for the faint of heart or for germaphobes. Luckily, I am neither of those two.
Rating: **** (4 out of 5 stars)