Steven Soderbergh alternates between films about individuals, like Erin Brockovich, and multi-character thrillers, like Contagion, which takes a Traffic-style approach to a deadly pandemic. It also represents a reunion for three actors from The Talented Mr. Ripley as Gwyneth Paltrow and Matt Damon play a suburban Minneapolis couple, while Jude Law (with unflattering dentures) plays a muckraking Bay Area blogger. When Beth (Paltrow) returns from a business trip to Hong Kong, she brings a virus with her that spreads across the world, attracting the attention of people at the Centers for Disease Control (Laurence Fishburne, Kate Winslet, and Jennifer Ehle) and the World Health Organization (Marion Cotillard). Just as virologists frantically try to track down the origins of the pathogen and to find a cure, it starts to mutate, foiling every move they make. Soderbergh, who serves as his own cinematographer, captures every development: false rumors, looting in the streets, and mass graves. Whenever he focuses on emptied-out offices and supermarkets, chillers like I Am Legend spring to mind, even if Contagion avoids most sci-fi/horror tropes, except for a stomach-churning autopsy sequence--one of his few real missteps. Mostly, he concentrates on cool heads dealing with life-and-death issues the best they can. The end result registers as more realistic than Outbreak, if less pulse pounding than Traffic, though the final sequence proves Soderbergh can find the grace notes even amidst an unbearable tragedy. --Kathleen C. Fennessyfrom£3.42 | RRP:
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Please note this is a region 2 DVD and will require a region 2 or region free DVD player in order to play Contagion follows the rapid progress of a lethal airborne virus that kills within days As the fast-moving epidemic grows the worldwide medical community races to find a cure and control the panic that spreads faster than the virus itself At the same time ordinary people struggle to survive in a society coming apart Actors Matt Damon Jude Law Gwyneth Paltrow Kate Winslet Marion Cotillard Jennifer Ehle John Hawkes Laurence Fishburne Bryan Cranston Sanaa Lathan Elliott Gould Dan Latham Steven James Price Demetri Martin & Duke Czlonka Director Steven Soderbergh Certificate 12 years and over Year 2011 Screen 1781 Languages English - Dolby Digital (51) Additional Languages Italian ; French ; English Audio descriptive track Subtitles Italian for the hearing impaired; French for the hearing impaired; English for the hearing impaired; Dutch Duration 1 hour and 42 minutes (approx)
Average Rating for Contagion - 4 out of 5
(based on 1 user reviews)
Disaster movies are always scarier when they're about something that could realistically happen to you. Contagion is one such movie, tracing the global outbreak of a deadly super-virus, and detailing the ways in which humanity might react to such an epidemic. Whilst it's a scenario that's been explored in film before - 1995's Outbreak springs to mind - I've never seen it handled with quite the level of realism and believability that director Steven Soderbergh brings to the table here. Which makes it one of the scariest and most chilling disaster movies I've ever seen.
With a story that touches on the lives of all kinds of different people who are affected by the virus as it spreads, this is a film that manages to be epic in scale whilst still managing to focus on the smaller details of individual people's day-to-day lives - which is important if we're to really care about what's going on. It's quite a tall order to combine the large-scale with the intimate like this, but Soderbergh pulls it off with flair, making good use of his trademark "hyperlink cinema" approach. Just like his earlier film Traffic, the movie is built around individual storylines that stand alone as separate vignettes, but which together form a larger web of interconnected characters (albeit sometimes only tenuously linked), coalescing to gradually give you a sense of the bigger picture.
This collage of smaller-scale moments allows Soderbergh to make use of a large cast, filled with familiar names and great actors (to the extent that my husband and I spent the first twenty minutes of the film constantly saying "oh, I didn't know (s)he was in it too!"). The list includes - but is not limited to - Kate Winslet, Sean Penn, Laurence Fishburne and Gwyneth Paltrow, as well as Marion Cotillard, Matt Damon, Bryan Cranston and Jude Law. Amazingly, each of these excellent actors is well-used, even if some of them only get a few scenes - and all of them get at least one great moment to shine in the movie.
Damon is particularly good as a grieving father and husband, whose wife (Paltrow) and son are among the first victims of the deadly bug. Law is excellent as an online blogger with corrupt motives, who constantly questions the government's explanations for the epidemic and their attempts to control it, and instead promotes a homeopathic remedy that he claims will cure the disease. And Fishburne and Winslet inject real humanity into their roles as part of the official US response to the outbreak, providing an on-screen take on the scientific community that's worlds away from the clichéd white-coated lab-geeks that you'd see in most Hollywood blockbusters.
And it's this refreshingly un-Hollywood take on the concept that's probably Contagion's greatest strength. Whilst the stakes are just as high as you'd see in a lot of disaster movies, the film never falls into the obvious traps of (say) over-egging the speed with which a virus might spread, or creating contrived and artificial do-or-die situations in which people's lives hang in the balance. Instead, the movie derives its drama from the realistic implications of what is an all-too-familiar scenario, especially in the wake of similar public health scares in recent years like bird flu, swine flu and SARS.
By never pushing things beyond the realistic, the movie manages to make its story infinitely more credible than most slick disaster thrillers. That's not to say that there isn't a sense of pressure and excitement, though. Indeed, the movie is driven forwards by a constant sense of escalation as the virus becomes more and more widespread. But this is all pulled off in a completely plausible way: you have the smartest people in the country asking all of the intelligent questions that need to be asked, and answering them in a realistic fashion.
And by showing these smart people making logical choices - rather than acting stupidly to push the plot forward, as in so many disaster and horror movies - the movie ends up feeling even more disturbing as it nears its climax. Because it turns out that even the most sensible and level-headed choices can end up taking society to a tipping point of riots and social breakdown.
Without giving too much away, as the movie begins to draw to a close it manages to create a suspenseful, scary and worryingly-plausible nightmare scenario that'll stay with you long after the film has ended. And then, to cap it all off, the story jumps back in time and reveals how the virus first got started: a twist which is all the more powerful because it's rooted in such mundane, everyday circumstances.
Contagion is a proper, serious thriller for adults, and one that's far more thought-provoking than 99% of the movies you'll see. Since watching this film, I've found myself constantly washing my hands, avoiding touching my face, and spotting all sorts of potential risks for transmitting or catching coughs and colds - simply as a result of having seen the worst-case scenario play out in an all-too-real disaster movie. That's a sure sign that Contagion tells a powerful story, and one that's capable of really affecting your views about something (in this case, disease-transmission and hygiene), rather than simply being a disposable, fluffy piece of Hollywood entertainment. I highly recommend it.
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