Review of 'Contagion'

contagion.jpg The world is still under siege of COVID-19 so it is doubtless there will be resurgent interest in films that talk about global pandemics such as Outbreak and this film, “Contagion” which covers much of the same ground but is no where near as compelling as “Outbreak”. In “Contagion” the focus is much more on the impact of the virus than on the discovery of a cure (without giving anything away).

As an unknown virus sweeps through the population, a conspiracy nut and influential blogger Alan Krumwiede (Jude Law) criticizes the wopandrld's response to the pandemic, accusing them of having manufactured the disease and eventually taking a homeopathic “vaccine” to cure himself. Meanwhile Dr. Ellis Cheever (Laurence Fishburne) head of the CDC has to contend with the demands of the government and media for progress. In Minnesota, father Mitch (Matt Damon) is the only one in his family that ends up surviving, why is he immune? World-wide looting and disorder breaks out then there is a glimmer of hope, have they discovered a viable vaccine?

There are a lot of little dramatic stories here and we skip from one to the next with great rapidity as the film-makers attempt to build the tension but, really, there isn't any. The reaction of the world to the pandemic appears to be muted at best with the only emotion shown being on the characters we follow who are tragically dropping left, right and center. Basically, the film is: Bad things happen (people die, people run around), vaccine found (?)…wait a long time…then denouement. This is not much of a plot and we are never really drawn into any one character so our attention is always skipping around (unlike Outbreak where we see the situation throughout the film through the eyes of the hero). Confusing at best, irritating at worse. I suspect this film sought to capitalize on the public panic of the SARS and Avian Flu outbreaks with little thought to coherency or even empathy. On the plus side the bloggers role in this is quite intriguing and, I feel, a bit of a jibe at the opportunism that some social media stars may indulge in…

There are no huge special effects here, the focus is on people, not necessarily a bad thing, with those trying to survive and those going against the system to attempt to find a cure (though the later seems more of an afterthought). The acting is…ok but certainly not enthralling though the decidedly unemotive Laurence Fishburne's character does manage to pull a slight surprise out at the end (I say slight as those paying even the slightest attention in the first five minutes of the film would have seen it coming a mile away).

So, ultimately, an unsatisfying mess that is not really even that entertaining. Intriguingly, my wife and I contrasted the situation unfolding in the film with what had actually happened during COVID and there were a good number of parallels (though the reactions in the film were far less swift then we actually saw earlier in the year).

Rating: “A bit better than average”

Review Date: 2020-10-18

Directed by: Steven Soderbergh

Studio: Warner Bros.

Year: 2011

Length: 106 minutes

Genre: Melodrama

Other reviewed films by Steven Soderbergh: