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In July of 1967, In Motaba River Valley, Zaire, a virus with a 100% mortality rate starts infecting people. The virus becomes known as the Motaba virus, and it's so deadly that it causes severe bleeding and liquefies internal organs, killing within 3 days. The virus wipes out Motaba River Valley, and a devastatingly huge fire bomb is dropped onto Motaba River Valley in order to reduce the chances of further infection. The bomb was dropped on the orders of corrupt General Donald McClintock, even though an army surgeon, General Bill Ford, was against the idea. 27 years later, in 1994, there is another outbreak in Motaba River Valley. At the United States Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID), located at Fort Detrick in Maryland, Colonel Sam Daniels is doing research on the Motaba virus, and so is his ex-wife Roberta Keough, who works at the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta, Georgia. A monkey carrying the Motaba virus stows away on a ... Written by
This film won a development battle with a similar viral-outbreak thriller project at 20th Century Fox called "Hot Zone". That film was going to be directed by Ridley Scott and star Robert Redford and Jodie Foster, but ran into script problems that threw it off stride. When producer Arnold Kopelson hired Ted Tally to work on his script, he liked the results so much that he immediately sent it out to Harrison Ford; Ford declined, but then Dustin Hoffman and Wolfgang Petersen signed on to star and direct, and Warner Bros. greenlit the film for a 1995 release. See more »
During the helicopter chase, the shadow of the filming helicopter falls briefly on the rock face. See more »
OK but never gets near its potential because of all its weaknesses
When a deadly virus decimates an African village, the US authorities attempt to draw a line under the incident and take the line that a reoccurrence is unlikely. However, a monkey has become a carrier for the virus and has reached the US. When Jimbo Scott smuggles the monkey out to sell to a pet store, he is infected and spreads it to others. Eventually the local town of Cedar Creek becomes overrun and the US form a barricade around the town. With the politicians planning the destruction of the town to stop the virus spreading, Col Sam Daniels and his team race to find some other way of stopping it.
Whether you viewed in back in 1995 or now, where the threat of viral attack doesn't seem so unlikely, this film should be gripping on the basis of the material. At points it does have good moments but generally this generally suffers from trying to do too much and having a script that cannot control its subject. For most of the film the virus is almost a concept rather than a real threat and it talks a lot without really delivering. Even when an entire town is quarantined and dying, it all remains very calm where really it needed fear and panic to seep into every character and every scene. Sadly it doesn't do this and the film bogs itself down in personal infections, squabbling ex-partners and so on did we need the main characters to get the virus? Wasn't it enough for an entire town to be dying and for the world to be at risk? Anyway, at the midpoint the film suddenly becomes an action movie with helicopter chases and a plot that can best be summed up as 'catch the monkey'.
Even with this section, the flaws are rife the action bits are OK but it seems unlikely that finding a monkey somewhere in the US would be a more complicated task! This is not to say that it isn't entertaining because it just about manages to be enjoyable enough, but nowhere near the potential that this had. Part of the reason is a plot that struggles from logic gaps and a lack of intelligence and urgency. The lack of intelligence comes from the film completely ignoring the moral complexities that come with such a situation the film ignores the fact that bad things may need to be done to stop the virus and instead just paints good guys (save the people) and bad guys (bomb the people). The lack of urgency comes from the failure to really make the virus a threat; really I needed Cedar Creek to become the US in miniature having everyone calm didn't do it for me and I needed more than just two cars making a break for it. But then the writing generally isn't up to the task and the heavy dialogue is pretty average at best with clichéd lines and far too much 'personal' stuff between the main characters.
Even the main 'bad' guy is a fudge as it just paints everything black and white.
Another reason that this doesn't live up to its potential is the sheer numbers of faces in the film. Hoffman makes a strange action star but he does OK with what little he is given. Russo is no good at all and happily has little to do but deliver the personal 'involvement' that the film cannot manage to deliver any other way. Gooding is pretty good in a semi-action role and Spacey has some good lines before he too becomes a cheap emotional device. Sutherland gives a by the numbers performance as he has nothing to really work with, but Freeman is more interesting because he does. It's just a shame that this talented cast were not used better in this film. An aside that was interesting to me was that Dale Dye has a minor role in the film while also serving as military adviser to the film. He is an interesting man because his career has grown from adviser to being a reasonable actor to becoming a writer, producer and (recently) a 2nd unit director clearly a motivated and talented man who it would be interesting to listen to talk sometime.
Overall the potential is there but it is unrealised. The cast are great on paper but have nothing to work with in a script that delivers average dialogue, no real characters, no moral ambiguities, no real involvement and no sense of scale or threat. It does have some pace at times and it has enough 'OK' moments to be worth watching maybe once but I was annoyed that the potential of the material alone was missed. I think the film can be summed up by the ending one minute we have an exciting helicopter stand off and the next we have a pay-off that is so lazy and so simplistic that I was actually visibly annoyed by it. Passable entertainment if you are in an undemanding mood but it never even gets near the potential it had.
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