I am a fan of authors like Stephen King because they have a way of capturing human behavior that makes it even scarier than the creatures we do not see lurking in the dark.
I am a fan of authors like Stephen King because they have a way of capturing human behavior that makes it even scarier than the creatures we do not see lurking in the dark. The way people in the book or on the screen react to the terror is often far more disturbing. Granted the new Sci-fi thriller, Contagion, is in no way a horror film; yet it does give us a glimpse into panic stricken society and what people will do when hope seems lost.
Director Steven Soderbergh (Traffic, Oceans 11, Erin Brockovich) does a fine job of taking a film about a deadly airborne disease and making it something all together different. When Beth Emhoff (Gwyneth Paltrow) returns from a business trip in Hong King she brings with her a strain of virus that soon begins to spread all over the country. Soon the CDC and WHO are working feverishly to try and find a cure. Meanwhile panic stricken cities begin to see their inhabitants turn to self preservation at any cost. These are not aliens or terrorists or zombies attacking. But a virus. An all too real possibility.
This film is most brilliant in its simplicity. It doesn’t try to create in-depth storylines or give you range of emotions from characters. Some things that happen are never explained or rationalized. Like life. Soderbergh is great at shooting elements that embody emotion. The entire scene becomes the character. These moments may turn off the average movie-goer who wants fast paced, dialogue filled thrillers that reach a crescendo and never drop a decibel. Then have all their questions answered and wrapped in a pretty little bow. Contagion is not that sort of film and in many ways is better for it.
Steven must be an amazing director to work for since all his films draw big time actors. Matt Damon, Laurence Fishburne, Jude Law, Kate Winslet, and Elliott Gould are a few of the a-listers found here. Most of his characters though have little screen time but the parts they play are crammed with dramatic energy and necessity. It is this balance of power mixed with ominous stillness and a plot line that is certainly conceivable that makes this film eerie and captivating. Unlike previous attempts (Outbreak, Blindness, etc) this one is set apart by the subtlety. It creatively shows how easy it would be to pass a virus like this along and how plausible the fiction is. So go wash your hands.
Contagion is rated PG-13 for disturbing content and some language. It is graphic in its depiction of illness and the effects it takes on the body. Scenes of mass graves and lifeless eyes are certainly not good visuals for your youngsters. The language is what you would expect from a society in the grips of agoraphobia. It isn’t vulgar but does include one angry use of the F word. I give it 4 out of 5 hand sanitizers. It is a film that grows on you. I heard people leaving the screening saying they loved it. Then others, like me, will find it a decent viewing that becomes more appreciative as it sinks in over time.
Review copyright 2011 Mungleshow Productions. Used by Permission.