Review: Contagion

[Rating: 2.5]

Director: Steven Soderbergh  

Cast & Crew: Matt Damon, Laurence Fishburne, Jude Law, Gwyneth Paltrow, Kate Winslet, Jennifer Ehle, Marion Cotillard   

Plot Summary: Contagion takes place in the worst case scenario of a deadly virus. An international traveler, Beth Emhoff, reaches into the snack bowl at an airport bar before passing her credit card to a waiter. A business meeting begins with a round of handshakes. A man coughs on a crowded bus. On returning to Minneapolis from Hong Kong, what she thought was jet lag takes a virulent turn. Two days later she is dead after a bout of epilepsy and the doctors have no reason for the cause of death. The epidemic grows, while the worldwide medical community races to find a cure…

Review: When one would watch the promos of this movie, it would definitely come across as intriguing, although its a well-made movie with a huge star cast, it still may not appeal to the masses as much. It is an ‘in-the-face’ representation of a world epidemic viral disease that kills within few hours of the first felt symptoms and how the masses would respond(and are responding) to the situation at hand. It appears to be a medical documentary at many points especially with all the doctors using the jargons(of course we understand that the actors are in the skin of the character) that makes it an even more heavy duty lesser known film genre, a medical thriller. 

The movie opens with Day 2 showing Beth Emhoff (Gwyneth Paltrow) on the phone with her clandestine lover sitting at the airport waiting for her flight announcement on her way back home to Minneapolis, Minnesota. She is seen complaining of fatigue and common cold but passes it off as jet lag, within 24 hours she has a bout of epilepsy while her husband, Mitch Emhoff ( Matt Damon) rushes her to the ER where the doctors declare her brought dead due to an unknown reason. Their son follows suit and is dead by the time Matt gets home to him. Paltrow is declared Patient Zero of an unheard of virus outbreak while the Center for Disease Control headed by Dr. Ellis Cheever(Laurence Fishburne), his deputy Dr. Erin Mears (Kate Winslet) and The World Health Organization get to work to find out the reason for the outbreak and the prevention method while the lab doctors work on making a vaccine for combatting the virus. In the autopsy scene of Patient Zero Paltrow, (which as a matter of fact was the most disgusting scene) a cranial saw rips her skull open for the doctors to analyze the damage the virus caused and in an attempt to make a vaccine.

Spread over approximately 4 months, all actors have done total justice to their given roles and the only one with a ‘juicy’ role was Matt Damon playing an aggrieved husband and father, now trying to protect his step-daughter from catching the infection while he is declared (surprisingly) immune. There are certain light hearted moments when blogger , Alan Krumweide (Jude Law) questions the authorities and CDC as to what they are doing to combat the outbreak and also accuses them of concealing a homeopathic treatment from the masses. Also, a satirical dialogue that caught my attention was when he (Law) states to scientists he is a writer and gets a prompt reply, “Bloggers are not writers. Blogging is just graffiti with punctuations.” 

Steven Soderbergh is known for his expertise with film-making having made some good watches like Erin Brockovich, Traffic, The Ocean’s Trilogy having started his career with Sex, Lies and Videotape. In his new venture as well there are remarkably well directed scenes like the switching from one country to another showing the situation there for a brief moment which also will make you feel “in-the-moment” ,at the place of the event. The portrayal of the common man is equally wonderful showing their desperation to safeguard themselves and also their family members which causes them to raid medical stores and cause damage in frustration. Also, a particular scene shows a scientist, Dr. Ian Sussman (Elliott Gould) analyzing the patrons at a diner, and how the infection may spread, through a hand that coughed, an unsterilized fork, crockery touched by other people.

A message to notate through the film is that fear spreads faster than any known or unknown virus, so it becomes necessary to remain composed in the face of calamity. With the effective electronic communication it is difficult to say that everyone would follow that considering social networking et al has become an integral part of everyone’s lives. 

Verdict: Not the genre I would particularly enjoy (there have been few Zombie movies while Will Smith’s I Am Legend was a good watch being a ‘pioneer’ in legend movies in the recent times) however from an entirely unbiased perspective, it is a one-time watch because of its star cast and the well-directed and amalgamated scenes. Also, it will increase the sale of the face masks and hand sanitizers and instill some amount of vigilance in you whenever you see/hear someone cough.  

Saumya Sharma

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