Contagion: Really solid disease worth catching
This past decade has been filled with mostly movies of escapism and fantasy. Very rarely do we find a film based on realism. While there are those few films that surprise us, mostly audiences go for movies that suspend reality as a means to break away from it nowadays. And yet, sometimes reality can be freaky enough. This past decade has brought numerous epidemics and scares from avian flu to swine flu; many of them would be great for a movie. Enter Contagion.
Contagion is a movie from Stephen Soderbergh of Ocean’s Eleven fame. It’s not for someone expecting something like 28 Days Later because there is no need to invent a creature to induce fear. The realism of the whole movie is what makes this story even more interesting, even compelling. Soderbergh uses an ensemble cast of actors to portray more real-life characters and pure reality to get the idea across.
A father (Matt Damon) must protect his daughter after his wife(Gwyneth Paltrow) and son die of a strange disease. It turns out that his wife was the first to contract this fatal disease. As the disease spreads around the world and kills everyone who contracts it, Dr. Cheever (Lawrence Fishburne) of the Center of Disease Control must find a cure. Thrown into the search for a cure are a World Health Representative (Marion Cotillard), a research specialist (Kate Winslet) and a freelance journalist (Jude Law). All must find a means to cure the disease in the midst of panic.
Three things are what make this movie really strong; one of them is a solid ensemble. The main actors go less for extraordinary circumstance and more for subdued concern. This allows for more believability and understanding. These aren’t Oscar-winning performances but don’t need to be. Lawrence Fishburne and Jude Law stand out the most for their performances, stealing every scene that they’re in. Each actor blends in to the movie where just barely you can recognize the actor.
The second thing is the story. This is a tightly constructed story that comes together well, leaving few loose ends and barely any wholes. Everyone comes together and has an important part to the story. Everybody from the journalist to the head of research to the everyman is important to the overall movie. The reality of the story alone can frighten us. This sort of thing could happen because it HAS happened, from Ebola to H1N1. It isn’t the disease that is scary but the fear of death and how society reacts to it. Soderbergh captures that panic perfectly, which leads to the third thing: the direction. Soderbergh gives the audience the ability to see the world through the eyes of the infected, feeling what they feel and reacting how they do. His most clever piece of direction comes from the ending. No spoilers will appear, but let’s just say it answers some really big questions. The only real downside was that the movie did seem to feel longer than 107 minutes, but it fortunately wasn’t boring.
Contagion is most likely this year’s most underrated movie because it’s a pretty solid story told pretty well but may not be for this audience. The ensemble work was pretty strong, the direction was great, and the realism worked. It wasn’t exactly “running out of the theater” scary, but it does make us understand why people would fear this. This is a good escape from all the escapism of Hollywood: no frills, just story.
Final Rating: 8 out of 10 – Do Go