What We Liked and Didn’t Like About Contagion
No science fiction bullshit!
In Steven Soderbergh’s all-star (Matt Damon! Jude Law! Gwyneth Paltrow! Kate Winslet!) flick, modern civilization itself is threatened by a new killer supervirus – so what makes this movie so different from many others in this subgenre? We investigate . . .
What We Liked:
- The best thing about Contagion is that there is no science fiction bullshit such as super labs with killer laser security and all other kinds of unlikely technology. In fact it is very much rooted in the real and the likely, which makes it all the more plausible.
- The killer virus isn’t one of those viruses that will kill every single living soul on the planet unless a cure is found. What the movie makes abundantly clear is that it doesn’t need to kill all of us to bring civilization to its knees. Pretty soon things become frayed as rampant health scares result in quarantines and social unrest. Contagion is a post-apocalyptic movie to a degree as society struggles to cope with the virus: health services cannot cope and neither can law and order.
- There is no X-Files-type conspiracy. In fact western health institutions are held democratically accountable for their actions and try their best to stem an avalanche of Internet hysteria.
- There is no villain in the piece except for the virus itself and a blogger played by Jude Law who sounds like a cut-rate Mulder and spouts the sort of unscientific claptrap that the Internet is so fond of spouting forth in mass quantities. Print media may be dead as Law’s character states, but the truth is that (most) print journalists are trained professionals and held accountable while anyone can spew any crap on the Internet.
- Contagion feels very well-researched and you learn a lot about viruses and their spread and containment in the process.
- Like in Psycho, Soderbergh kills off a character played by major actress pretty early on in the movie.
- There is no team of scientists fighting against time to find a cure like many other movies of this subgenre (Outbreak, the Andromeda Strain movies). This is somewhat refreshing.
What We Didn’t Like:
- The movie is rather sterile – pretty much like one of the labs in the movie itself – and it is difficult to become emotionally involved even though it is intelligently written and well-performed by the actors.
- Part of the problem is that the movie follows several characters and plots and subplots as the virus spreads. Some characters only pitch up rather late in the movie. Some subplots are never satisfactorily resolved. The movie lacks focus and its approach is almost like that of a documentary at times.
- A longer running time would have benefitted the movie better.
- The presence of so many major stars is distracting.