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Contagion – review


“Nothing spreads like fear”,  so the slogan goes for Steven Soderbergh’s new movie Contagion. This idea of spreading infiltrates the core of the film which is glamoured with a gigantic cast of characters from Matt Damon, to Laurence Fishburne, to Kate Winslet to Gwyneth Paltrow.  Soderbergh is a master of a minimalist style of filmmaking, that at times plays with the idea of reality setting in to his films.  He plays with genius.  At other times he toys with complete boredom.  Contagion falls somewhere in between.

The film opens as Gwyneth Paltrow’s character Beth, is getting ready to board a flight out of Chicago.  She recently came from Hong Kong and she is visibly ill talking to a lover that she met while on layover.  She is flying home to Minneapolis to her husband Mitch, played by Matt Damon and she is carrying a very deadly virus.  This virus causes an outbreak that is one of the most deadly viruses the world has ever seen, and it goes from person to person, to person.

Contagion does a good job of analyzing an epidemic of mass proportion as it expands throughout the world.  If something of this magnitude infected the world then I imagine that the film portrays how it could actually happen.  The only problem is that what Contagion shows us, is exactly what I’d expect.  I’m not hit with any surprises or epiphanies about humanity as a whole.  While I was watching it all I could think of was…yeah that’s exactly what I think would happen.

As people begin to die a cure is obviously being researched by top tier scientists including Kate Winslet and Laurence Fishburne.  They are trying to beat the speed of the virus that is blowing up out of control. The problem is the virus is moving to fast and the world wants answers that they can not give.

Jude Law plays Alan, in a subplot as a internet blogger who believes he has the answers to the virus, which of course is a government conspiracy.  He also believes he has a medicinal cure that he sells to millions, defrauding them out of their hard earn greenbacks.  This is another issue with the film.  Soderbergh loves his characters a little too much at times and we get to many of them to decipher.  We get to many subplots that make the film hard to follow at times, and we don’t care about at times either.  He has shown that he can weave these story-lines together expertly in films like Traffic, but he fails here a little bit.

In the end Contagion isn’t a bad film, but it’s not really a good film either.  It sits on the scale of just above average, and while you are entertained at times, and it does explore some interesting themes that relate to the society around us, it fails to really become a film that is worth watching.

Grade: B-