Bottom Line: A thriller in the making; great acting and concept, but the film’s fever is not “contagious”.
Directed by: Steven Soderbergh
Starring: Gwyneth Paltrow, Jude Law, Kate Winslet, Laurence Fishburne, Marion Cotillard, Matt Damon
Morbidly disturbing, authentic thriller focuses on an the fight to prevent a deadly disease (unspecified until the shocking final sequence) from spreading any more, an effort from an international team of CDC doctors. We see both sides of the crisis: the work of Dr. Erin Mears (Kate Winslet) and Dr. Ellis Cheever (Laurence Fishburne) to rid the horror; and the family of Mitch and Beth Emhoff (Matt Damon, Gwyneth Paltrow), affected gravely by the epidemic.
What makes CONTAGION so engaging is how understandable and crystal clear it is. I began watching, nervously expecting a film similar to Michael Crichton’s 1960s novel The Andromeda Strain, a work about a plague that only a doctor of the medical field could possibly comprehend. Instead, it seems more similar to Stephen King’s 1970s novel The Stand, or its television mini-series adaptation, with a different sense of horror.
CONTAGION works much better as a drama than a thriller. It has its moments of being adrenaline-heavy and suspenseful, but those moments, unfortunately, are not persistent. The dramatic mentality, however, is. Every character seems to be analyzed and developed beyond belief, especially for a film centered on a health concern rather than a person or a group of people. I would recommend seeing this. The ending is appalling and rather haunting, but not a twist, and the effect the entire film delivers to its audience is tremendous. If this isn’t recognized at the Oscars this year, or by film historians half a century years from now, I feel sorrow.