In a nutshell: Humanity is doomed. And it’s all Gwyneth Paltrow’s fault.

Popcorn rating: 3.5/5

SARS. Swine flu. HIV. Hell, even the common cold. Think about it. If there’s one thing that could wipe out life as we know it, other than war , surely it would be the devastating affects of Gwyneth Paltrow. Nah, I’m jesting. I mean, of course, an unknown and deadly virus. And, unlike war, such a virus could slip unnoticed into the population with the mere flap of a wing.

It is that fear which is at the crux of Contagion, a film so real it almost plays out like a More4 documentary.

Directed by Steven Soderbergh and using a dream ensemble cast (Matt Damon, Gwyneth Paltrow,  Kate Winslet, Laurence Fishburne, Marion Cotillard, etc, etc, oh and Jude Law who gets a special mention for sporting an irritating snaggle tooth), Contagion follows the swift, worldwide progress of an airborne virus that kills within days.

Using  intertwining plotlines, we are offered an overview of the affects of the virus, from the medical community searching for a cure, a blogger/journalist who believes a conspiracy theory is afoot to an an ordinary family struggling to stay safe and, randomly, a kidnapped World Health Organisation representative (the ransom is vaccines).

This multi-story approach is an interesting and effective device. Contagion presents a horrifying and very possible scenario; it feels utterly, terrifyingly real and that’s the key – not only could this happen but the next time you’re on a train or crowded room, you may find yourself edging away from that person who looks a little tired, preferring not to hold onto the safety rail. This is a film which will make you think.

Sorderbergh, whose previous outings include Traffic and Ocean’s Eleven, is a master of this type of interlinking, jigsaw style but, conversely, while each individual Contagion story is interesting, the overall feel is somewhat cold, clinical.

The talent of this star cast is without question, but none have enough screen time, nor enough scope for us to really empathise with their character. There are, simply, too many stories, and with each of the protagonists appearing to hold back emotionally, remaining clam and professional at all times despite the horrors they face, there is not enough individuality, not enough humanity on screen.

*spoiler alert*

That’s not to say Soderbergh isn’t aware of the human side of the overall piece. Unfortunately, when humanity is shoehorned in, it feels fake, sanctimonious. Take, for example, the plight of the kidnapped doctor whose story jumps from being faced with a house full of terrified children wearing makeshift masks to teaching said children under the shade on a sunny glade. Or, if you prefer, the note on which the film ends, the great glowing sign which highlights that, this virus? Guess what? It’s all the fault of Big Business and it’s unending expansionism. Of course. A message which, let’s face it, was done perhaps less obviously but with greater emotional impact in Fern Gully: The Last Rainforest. Says it all.

Contagion is a good film, a thoughtful film but it’s not quite as clever as it thinks it is. Sure, it’ll make you nervous if the guy next to you at work has a bit of a sniffle, but you won’t shed a tear for the victims on screen.

Reviewer: CurlyShirley

  1. Nick says:

    I just watched this last weekend and you are totally on the money here. “Contagion is a good film, a thoughtful film but it’s not quite as clever as it thinks it is.” I couldn’t agree more! I expected more from it, really, but it was worth Netflixing!

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