Directed by: Steven Soderbergh
Starring: Matt Damon, Laurence Fishburne, Jennifer Ehle, Marion Cotillard, Gwyneth Paltrow, Kate Winslet, Jude Law, John Hawkes
Review: In 1997 the movie ‘Contact’ came out and I have really enjoyed that movie every time I have seen it. To this day, I feel it is a movie that is vastly underrated and most likely underappreciated. I feel like ‘Contagion’ will be that way as well, a very smart, very well done thriller that just won’t connect with some people, but those that do will appreciate the expertise with which it was done.
What made ‘Contact’ so great was how smartly and how realistically it handled it’s topic. How would the world truly react given alien contact that wasn’t hostile in nature as so many other movies would have you believe? Some would think that it would be hostile not matter what, some wouldn’t agree, but it would all be discussed and handled in a very appropriate manner. That is what makes ‘Contagion’ so great, it takes its topic seriously and doesn’t sensationalize it to the point of where you really don’t believe what’s happening would actually happen. When tackling a topic like this, realism is key and ‘Contagion’ keeps its feet on the ground.
The film takes a look at how we as a society would react to a disease/virus outbreak that we didn’t see coming, don’t know what it is, and don’t know how to fix it. Make no mistake, this is a scary topic and something that the movie points out could happen more easily than we would like to believe. Each time the setting of the movie changes it flashes the population on the screen ‘Minneapolis, Population 3.3 million,’ ‘Tokyo, Population 36.1 Million’ making sure the viewer is constantly reminded of how many people are affected on a daily basis. Too often, humans all over the globe put themselves into their own little silo’s and forget how many people they can affect on a daily basis. One person quickly becomes two, which becomes four, and then becomes 16 and it gets worse from there.
We get taken through just about every side of the epidemic. We see a character who was part of the wave whose wife and son ended up dying from the virus (Damon). We see the CDC field agent who is sent out to deal with the virus at it’s supposed first outbreak spot (Winslet). There is the CDC leader who has to try to manage the fallout as well as work to find a cure (Fishburne), there is his right hand woman who is working desperately for a cure (Ehle), and flanking all of them is the “noble” blogger critiquing all of them, whose intentions may not be as they seem.
All of this is handled with a unique style and a high level of intelligence. You see people freaking out about contracting this virus but society never spins completely out of control. People still try to maintain as much of a semblance of society as they can, which I find to be a realistic scenario. There are those that will freak out, and rightfully so, but there are also those that will realize that the best thing they can do to help society is to make sure that there is am much normalcy and as much information out there as there can be so people remain under control.
We get to see the politics behind such an epidemic and how the CDC tries to handle the situation. Never does the movie make you say “that would never happen,” it is constantly rooted in the real world that suggests that there is a way to handle this scenario, however, ghastly it may seem.
The risk you run in a movie like this that covers so many angles is losing the audience with no central character to root for or sympathize with. There is no character that is the driving force behind this movie, the driving force is a virus that we can’t see or hear but see its effects increasing by the hour. Yet, the filmmakers here were smart enough to be able make sure that we still cared about these characters. Through seeing how many people are affected by this, we inevitably care about all these characters because they represent us, they represent all of humanity and everyone can sympathize with that.
It’s an extraordinary situation, and the film makes us realize just how easily something like this could happen and just how wide of a reach it would have. It is this that makes it scary, but also shows that humans can resolve and find a way to handle any adverse situation which is as good of a message as there is.
This movie is definitely worth your time.