7 nov. 2011

My Review: Contagion (8/10)

¨It`s figuring us out faster than we`re figuring it out.¨

The first thing I wanted to do after the movie was over was to wash my hands and get disinfected. Contagion is a great thriller about an epidemic that is spreading around the world and taking millions of lives while at the same time spreading panic and fear everywhere. The film is a great case study on human behavior and it felt very authentic (especially after the Swine-flu scare that spread over the globe a couple of years ago). Some may complain due to the pace of the film or the multiple stories that are going on that don`t let you focus on any of the characters, but I really enjoyed it and thought Steven Soderbergh made the right decision by focusing on the virus and letting it be the true central character as we see it spread throughout different parts of the world and affect almost everyone in the same way. The virus and the fear combined together produced sufficient thrills for me despite the slow pace of the film, and I really enjoyed the script from Scott Z. Burns who had previously collaborated with Soderbergh and Matt Damon in the 2009 comedy The Informant. It`s very difficult to typecast director Soderbergh since he makes a wide variety of films and it`s almost impossible to compare his works due to the variety of his projects, but I would have to say Contagion is the most similar to his Oscar winning film Traffic due to all the multilayered plots that were going on. In Traffic the main character was the drugs, while in Contagion it`s the virus. Out of Sight remains my favorite Soderbergh film however.

The movie begins with Day 2 of the virus where we see a sick woman named Beth Emhoff (Gwyneth Paltrow) who is travelling from Chicago to Minneapolis. She had been on a business trip to Hong Kong but spent a few hours in Chicago. Once she arrives home, her husband Mitch (Matt Damon) finds her really ill and decides to take her to the hospital after she suffers a convulsion. Apparently some guy in Hong Kong died from similar symptoms, and so did someone in London, Japan, and Chicago. The virus seemed to have started somewhere in Hong Kong, but it is spreading all over the world. Some doctors in the U.S. Center for Disease Control decide to investigate what could have caused the deaths. Dr. Ellis Cheever (Lawrence Fishburne) is in charge of the investigation, and he sends Dr. Erin Mears (Kate Winslet) to Minneapolis in order to try to pick up as much information as she can and see how Beth`s death could be related to the one in Chicago and across the globe. Erin has an interview with Mitch who seems to be immune, but he won`t take chances with his daughter Jory (Anna Jacoby-Heron) and overprotects her. Dr. Ally Hextall (Jennifer Ehle), who also works for the Center, is in charge of trying to find a vaccine or a cure. Meanwhile the World Health Organization decides to send one of their own to Hong Kong to try to point out where the virus could have begun. Dr. Leonora Orantes (Marion Cotillard) arrives to the populated city and begins her investigation with the help of a local named Sun Feng (Chin Han). Everyone is working against the clock as the virus continues to spread over the world at an alarming rate, and conspiracy theory-blog writer Alan Krumwiede (Jude Law) doesn’t help control the chaos as he complains about the government working alongside pharmaceutical companies to make a profit.

There are so many different stories going on that it can be hard to track what is going on if you aren´t paying attention. Everything happens so fast, and the urgency has to do with how quick the virus begins to act and kill people. Many characters or stories get sidelined at times, but that is ok because the main character is the virus itself and it is everywhere. Soderbergh makes sure we get this point across by filming a lot of close up shots of people shaking hands or touching objects that someone else later picks up. The threat is eminent and everywhere. In a way Contagion is a disaster movie, but it is different from most films which usually tend to take an all-action approach or that focus on a few characters. In Contagion there are so many characters and stories going on that some don`t even get a resolution, but it is ok because we find a resolution to the main character: the virus. I know some might find this difficult to deal with and would have wished for the story to have focused on one character, but that isn`t the way Soderbergh works. The only downside to this is that some great actors such as John Hawkes, Marion Cotillard, Elliott Gould, and Bryan Cranston don`t get enough screen time and their talents seem underused. It really doesn’t matter because Contagion is a smart and entertaining thriller well worth a watch. 

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