Movie Review: We’ve Seen it All Before – Contagion


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by Stefan Abrutat

Yeah, yeah, yeah. We’ve seen it all before. But not like this, we haven’t.

Ocean’s 11/12/13 director Steven Soderbergh delivers the smartest movie to address a worldwide pandemic to date, from a stringent script by Scott Z. Burns. It’s terrifying because it’s real, accurately and clinically portraying the most likely course of events should such a disaster occur. Our leadership collapses and hides. Heroic doctors risk their own lives working manically to contain and decode the pathogen while the rest of us hole up at home and hope it goes away. When a simple touch from infected humans (or anything they’ve previously touched) can kill you a short couple of days later, the filmmakers don’t particularly need to turn the infected into sprinting zombies to imbue the audience with a communal bowel-loosener. You’ll never look at an elevator button or a bar bowl of pub peanuts the same way again.

Matt Damon plays the everyman who loses his wife (Gwyneth Paltrow) and stepson to the killer disease as soon as the movie begins. She’s patient zero; the person that brings the malady back from a business trip to Hong Kong. Immune himself, he spends the rest of the flick trying to protect his surviving daughter from infection.

The virus spreads like they always do, only now we’ve got the advantage of the internet to battle it. This is a double-edged sword, however, as this very tool is also used by those seeking profit from disaster, such as the repellent conspiracy blogger played by Jude Law, whose recommendation of a fake homeopathic cure causes widespread rioting.

One point that didn’t escape my attention was the role of government. There was a duality to the way they were portrayed that could quite easily be the core of the story. At times irrelevant and corrupt, but in turn shown as dedicated and benevolent. Such a view serves to underscore the idea that governments are actually made up of people, not necessarily paranoid, self-serving automatons.

Laurence Fishburne, Jennifer Ehle, Kate Winslet, Marion Cotillard and Elliott Gould lead the medical charge against the disease. With such a numerous and distinguished cast there’s precious little time to develop any real character depth, which is eerily poignant when you consider the faceless slayer stalking them. Will a killer like this on the loose, power, money and celebrity mean nothing: we’re all just little animals, trying to survive another day.

In some ways, then, the virus is the biggest star of them all.

Rating: PG-13. Running time: I hour 46 minutes. Opened on 9th September.

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