by Rick Grant
The movie opens with Day 2 on the screen. “Wait, what happened to Day 1?” I thought. Relax, it’s referenced later in the film explaining how Beth (Paltrow) got infected by the previously unknown virus. The story unfolds much like a documentary, with characters coming in and out of the scenario.
The problem is, the characters are not well developed. Consequently, the audience doesn’t care about them. So, when they get infected and start flopping around like a dying salmon, the viewer just shrugs.
Director Steven Soderbergh’s exemplary filmmaking style helped to offset the lack of character development. However, in the end, the film came off like a History Channel what-if special. (“Life after the oil supply runs out,” etc.)
Gwyneth Paltrow gets the most lens time as Beth, Mitch’s (Matt Damon) wife who catches the bug while in Hong Kong while cheating on her husband. When she falls victim to the nasty virus, the viewers have no emotional connection with her. We’re sorry, of course, but she would have been fine if she went straight home and not taken a later flight to mess around with an old boyfriend.
As it turned out, Beth was part of the early cluster of the virus outbreak, which began in Hong Kong. Then it spread exponentially, until it went global. Another important character is Dr. Erin Mears (Kate Winslet), a microbiologist acting as the CDC’s lead virus specialist. She isolates the virus which is a completely new airborne disease.
Laurence Fishburne plays the head of the CDC’s team, Dr. Ellis Cheever. He’s the point man to keep the media at bay. He is also working on a cure for the raging virus. He is besieged by false media’s speculation. His job is to calm the public’s fears.
Working against that goal is a fear-mongering blogger, Alan Krumweide, (Jude Law) who claims that an across the counter medication will cure the virus.
Meanwhile the death toll rises to over the million mark.
The film explores this nightmare scenario with cold hard facts and almost no emotional undercurrent.
In the end, there is no resolution, just a what-if chronicle of the horror of an unknown airborne virus spreading across the globe. The narrator’s advice: Don’t tough your face with your hands, (we do it hundreds of times a day) don’t touch other people, and wash your hands often. As for me, I’m going to slather myself in hand sanitizer.
Contagion Movie Review
by Rick Grant