Review: Contagion

Posted August 24th, 2011 at 8:45 am

An alarming  portrayal of a viral outbreak and its fallout Contagion is essentially a real life horror story – one that very well could prompt concern of a scenario that is unfortunately not far fetched. A fast spreading disease appears out of no where making its way through the population and the movie follows a handful of characters and their different perspectives and circumstances.

Expertly orchestrated by director Steven Soderbergh Contagion feels a lot like like an independent film – from the tone to its pacing, imagery, and score. It has those qualities but is littered by a number of recognizable and respected stars in the cast. Matt Damon, Kate Winslet, Gwyneth Paltrow, Jude Law, Lawrence Fishburne, Marion Cotillard, and Bryan Cranston share the primary screen time. Their characters are all tied together through the world event but are fractured into their own angles.

One man has lost loved ones and hangs on to only person he has left (his daughter), the CDC is working on tracking down the origin of the virus and finding a solution, an investigative blogger is seeking out a scoop and championing a conspiracy theory, and a doctor is sent to Hong Kong to try and locate the original source of the virus. This is all happening as the public reacts and the situation escalates. While the factions don’t completely merge framing them in this manner establishes the necessary scope of the ordeal.

The audience at the screening seemed to struggle with processing what was taking place. At times there were audible gasps and on several occasions nervous laughter. As the credits rolled there was a smattering of applause and also heavy chatter. It’s a movie that challenges the viewer and is striking in its effectiveness. There is also some very graphic imagery and some disturbing happenings that take place which are unexpected in how they are presented – some of it even caught me off guard to an extent. You’d be hard pressed to find a single up-beat moment in the entire movie.

That is likely to result in mixed crowd response. The immediate feeling I have is there will be those who think the movie is excellent and others who find it boring due to a lack of action and its calculated though consistent pace. It is suspenseful in its overwhelming sense of dread and that won’t be considered enjoyable for everyone.

The conclusion to the film is where it lost me somewhat as it felt rushed and a bit convenient – which was out of place considering everything that had taken place before it. I kept expecting something else to happen right at the end (trying to be unspecific here) to leave the audience with a particular feeling on the way out but it didn’t come. Instead it took the opportunity to answer a lingering question which didn’t feel as though it was ultimately necessary.

Contagion is a very good movie but also a bleak and difficult watch. It’s not easily recommendable despite the qualities it possesses and how effective it is in making the scenario feel frightening and potentially real. For those seeking something different than the normal summer fare as the transition is made to the fall season Contagion is definitely an option worth considering.

Rating: ★★★½☆

Contagion is rated PG-13 and releases on September 9th.