There have been several “microbes take over the world” films in the past, but this one is a little unique as it examines a much wider spectrum of potential events surrounding such an event. The route of infection is spread is probably technically correct. In the age of unrestricted air travel, virtually any kind of contagious infection can literally hop on a plane and be out of control before anyone knows about it.
Previously, “Outbreak” (1995), was typical of the genre, basically “how it happened’, “how we figured it out” and ‘how we managed it”. “Contagion” departs from that formula in that it goes further down the road, portraying rather visually the histrionic reactions of the population to a disease with a 20% mortality progressing exponentially. Much of it not very pleasant but probably predictable. The scary part is that it could happen, probably will in the future and when it does, much of the disturbing social and political aspects of this film probably will too.
The film is well directed, well cinemagraphed, moves at a steady pace, maintains the viewer’s interest and the actors did a good job. Two particularly interesting scenes were Matt Damon hearing bad news from an emergency physician and not absorbing any of it. Then the final scene where it’s explained how the infection started explains the entire film, not revealed until the end.
That said, I have some criticisms.
The two roles that worked in this film were Lawrence Fishburne and Kate Winslet, but some really big names were wasted. Anyone could have played Gwyneth Paltrow’s role. Matt Damon cruised through his role anyone could have played. The entire concept of Jude Law’s role just didn’t jive with the plot.
This film could have been made better not so much be changing the cinematic progression but by using actors no one ever heard of. Watching A-list actors sleepwalk through roles did nothing for the film and I think took something away from it.
I think the film is definitely worth seeing if you aren’t doing anything else on an idle weekend, but it isn’t going to be something you’ll rave about. Waiting for it to come on Netflix is a perfectly acceptable option.
I give it two and a half Encephalopathic seizures.