Directed by STEVEN SODERBERGH
Starring MATT DAMON, KATE WINSLET, LAURENCE FISHBURNE,
MARION COTILLIARD, and GWENETH PALTROWJust when you think it's safe to touch door knobs, go back to using regular soap, and stop carrying hand sanitizer around in your purse, a movie like Contagion comes out. Contagion is the new ensemble thriller directed by Steven Soderbergh, starring Gweneth Paltrow, Matt Damon, Laurence Fishburne, Marion Cotilliard, Sanaa Lathan, Jude Law, Elliot Gould, and Kate Winslet. The actors listed above are immediately recognizable, however, there are several non-recognizable character actors, who add just as much, if not more to the film.
Contagion starts on day 2 of the outbreak. At this point it's a mystery as to how the disease was contracted by Paltrow's character and day 1 is hidden from us. Beth Emhoff (Gweneth Paltrow) is a career woman and a duplicitous wife (I'm not sure why those two go together or why the latter was necessary for the story). While in Hong Kong on business she contracts an unusual virus. Upon her return to Minneapolis, Minnesota her illness takes hold. As one can see from the trailer, Gweneth Paltrow's character does not fair well. In the short time that Gweneth is on-screen, she plays one heck of a sick woman. Gweneth's contortions and reactions look disturbingly realistic.
|Anna Jacoby-Heron and Matt Damon|
Matt Damon plays Mitch, her husband, who luckily for him is immune, however, the disease continues to devastate his family. Similar to the 1918 Spanish Flu epidemic, the new virus is lethal because our immune systems have never had any contact with the virus before.
As all of the heavy hitters step up to the plate (Centers for Disease Control, World Health Organization, FEMA, and Homeland Security), the film starts to unfold. The most interesting aspect of the film is the process behind the infrastructure tasked with responding to contagious diseases and how such diseases would theoretically be contained, if at all. Another fascinating aspect of the film is the obvious fragility of society and how it easily breaks down under pressure, which is a staple in all doomsday films.
Laurence Fishburne plays Dr. Ellis Cheever, as the conscientious head of the CDC in Atlanta and Kate Winslet plays Dr. Erin Mears, his assistant. The main scene stealer among the CDC actors is relatively unknown actor Jennifer Ehle who portrays Dr. Alley Hextall. Ehle played Elizabeth Bennett in PBS's famed version of Pride and Prejudice.
Marion Cotilliard plays Dr. Leonara Orantes of the World Health Organization who meets her own unfortunate set of circumstances while in Hong Kong, as both organizations frantically attempt to determine the origins of the virus. One of the least important, yet most intriguing characters, is Alan Krumwiede, played by Jude Law. Jude Law's character is a wikileaks/Julian Assange-type figure, with vast conspiracy theories and millions of Internet subscribers.
|Jude Law stands atop a once bustling street|
Overall Contagion is a great whodunit and a tense thriller. The scientists are the detectives and the virus is a serial killer.Soderbergh is a master at quick shots and continual movement throughout his films. Contagion is no exception. Contagion furiously jumps from one city to another: San Francisco, Chicago, Minneapolis, Hong Kong, Tokyo, and Atlanta and weaves in intertwining story lines. Soderbergh sets up some impressive shots as he ratchets up the paranoia and fear as science scrambles to catch up. The scariest aspect of this film is that something like this has happened before and could theoretically happen again.
Most importantly, unlike other melodramatic virus films, Contagion takes the science seriously. Contagion does something few other movies do, it treats the audience with intelligence. In this aspect, Contagion is up there with the early 1970's film, The Andromeda Strain and a must see! Just be sure to be the first one to open the door on your way out.
|Gweneth Paltrow has seen better days.|
FOUR OUT OF FIVE STARS