(M) Matt Damon, Gwyneth Paltrow, Kate Winslet, Jude Law
Steven Soderbergh (Director of Oceans 11, Erin Brockovich) knows how to bring together the big names of Hollywood, and his latest offering boasts a whole host of stars (Matt Damon, Gwyneth Paltrow, Kate Winslet, Jude Law, Marion Cotillard, Laurence Fishburne). Contagion is a “hyper-realistic” take on what would happen if a super-virus similar to Bird Flu struck the world. How would it multiply? What would happen in the space of days, weeks, and months and how would governments, societies and world health organisations react? The answers will undoubtedly cause you to wash your hands much more thoroughly than usual. Be prepared to be paranoid, chilled to the bone and more than a little grossed-out.
Matt Damon leads Contagion’s star-studded cast as the average guy fighting for his daughter’s survival in a panicked, degenerating society. His wife (Gwyneth Paltrow) carries the unknown disease from Hong Kong into the United States, where it begins to multiply, causing havoc.
Other “carriers” spread the disease further around the world, causing victims to die violent deaths, foaming at the mouth whilst scientists must work around the clock to find a cure. The disease is the only real “villain” in the film, although Jude Law as a slimy, sensationalistic Internet blogger is suitably unlikable.
The plot jumps from one sequence of people and events to another, often leaving the viewer unsatisfied with very little time to become attached to each individual and their plight. Tension boils and many moments are genuinely touching, thrilling or terrifying, but in a film all about connection — the way people connect physically, mentally and technologically and the consequences of such — the audience is unable to truly connect with the characters.
Contagion is genuinely fascinating, thrilling, and educational. While dramatised in typical Hollywood fashion, Soderbergh’s extensive research has provided a certain credibility usually unseen in blockbusters. It tends to plateau towards the end, hinting at further conspiracies, but wraps up in a fairly straightforward manner. This is ideal, as many “what if” post-apocalyptic films tend to descend into incredibly unrealistic, fantastical conclusions. Contagion keeps its head, but does not seem to have very much heart.