Contagion, 2011, USA/United Arab Emirates

By Graeme Coleman

Contagion is the most well put together disaster film to date. Steven Soderbergh delivers a disturbingly realistic film about an out-of-control pandemic that kills millions of people within a few short months. This heart-pounding film is very intelligent, genuinely frightening, and filled with an amazing cast.

Contagion stars Marion Cotillard, Matt Damon, Laurence Fishburne, Jude Law, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Kate Winslet. These main characters are all equally important to the film, although I think this story is better suited for a TV series. That way we could dig deeper into their characters and have more of an emotional stake in the film. Either way, the stars of this film did an incredible job.

The film starts on “Day 2” of the disease, focusing on the ill Beth Emhoff (Gwyneth Paltrow) who is on her way back home to Minneapolis, Minnesota from a business trip to Hong Kong. Contagion moves at a quick pace, as a few other infected people perish within the first few minutes. Beth manages to make it back to Minneapolis to her family before suddenly dying, leaving her husband Mitch Emhoff (Matt Damon) alone with her son. The young boy becomes sick and dies early on as well, leaving Mitch wondering why he is immune to the virus. His young daughter who lived in a different city comes back to Minneapolis, and he spends the rest of the film doing whatever it takes to keep her from getting sick.

Dr. Ellis Cheever (Laurence Fishburne) is Dr. Erin Mears’ (Kate Winslet) hard-pressed boss at Atlanta’s Center for Disease Control Prevention. They impressively devote their lives to finding a cure to the disease. Their efforts end up getting them both into trouble, and Erin’s life ends up in jeopardy. We know just enough about Erin to have an emotional attachment to her. Ellis finds himself trying to save Erin, while being the target of public criticism and outrage on how the center is handling the pandemic– especially by Alan Krumwiede (Jude Law).

Alan is an Australian blogger who claims to have found a cure and is extremely suspicious of all authority. It is hard to tell if he is a villain or hero. On one hand, his cure seems to work and millions of people begin to listen to him; on the other, his writing on the internet is spreading mass amounts of fear to his audience. I guess spreading news on the internet could be like spreading a virus as well– if it is causing a panic.

Leonora Orantes (Marion Cotillard) has the most under developed character of all. She is a World Health Organization doctor who heads to China to discover the source of the virus, where she finds more than she was expecting. Putting yourself in Leonora’s situation, you could only imagine what she goes through. The problem is that we do not get to see it, we only get to imagine it. But, of course, forcing multiple protagonists into a film is nearly impossible to do without leaving a few things out.

We live in a time where Lindsay Lohan is considered a “disaster” to millions of people, so it is nice when a film like Contagion slaps us in the face with reminder of what a real disaster looks like. Comparing this disaster movie to others, I would say this is the best one yet. I love the horror of the raging, zombie-like diseased, like in 28 Days Lateror The Crazies, but Contagion is just so believable.

4.5/5 stars

  1. Every time another medical pandemic themed movie comes out it brings me back to I am Legend for some reason and then I think of how these story lines have been parodied in television shows such as The Simpsons. It’s great to see that one of THESE is finally worth checking out and thanks to your review I will be sure to do so!

  2. I’ve been meaning to check this one out for a while now and will definitely have to now. Not too many people think of movies like ‘Contagion’ or like you said ‘The Crazies’ as disaster flicks but they total are. Sure they don’t have the same level of mass destruction like ‘Deep Impact’ or ‘Armageddon’ the death toll is on the same scale. I’m a huge Soderbergh fan so I’m going to check this one out sooner than later after this rating.

    • graemewilde
    • April 2nd, 2012

    Yeah, I was surprised to see how realistic it was from so many different perspectives Lauren!
    Exactly Andrew! I didn’t want to consider it a virus movie because then everyone instantly thinks of zombies haha. Even without the destruction, it is for sure a disaster film.
    Definitely check it out guys and let me know what you think 🙂

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