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Stephen Soderbergh's latest direction, "Contagion" (2011), even though
bringing less than expected excitement, is an absorbing movie to watch,
efficient as a social and behavioural study, but no less as an
accomplished collection of individual case studies, offering
sufficiently thought-provoking arguments, such as the fact
that--despite all the scientific advances and exhaustive efforts of the
thousands of specialists--humankind still stands pretty helpless in the
prevention of new viral outbreaks and their many strains occurring
globally, when even seemingly well organised societies easily slip into
chaos, leaving all individuals to fend for themselves in the ultimate
fight for survival, all further fuelled by unstoppable leaks (however,
lucrative sensationalism, as well) on an almost inevitable, mutually
supportive (money and power shouldn't mix, but mostly they do) corporal
and governmental cover-ups. Surely it is a disturbing reminder that
even at the most difficult of times, humanity's good traits still get
so easily overpowered by the seed of all evil--selfishness and greed.
Many good actors partake in the movie: Kate Winslet, Matt Damon, Jude Law, Jennifer Ehle, Marion Cotillard, Laurence Fishburne, Elliott Gould, to name a few, though one cannot expect remarkable character development when action is dispersed and story spread on so many leads. Nevertheless, Soderbergh knows how to make people count and, albeit somewhat shy about it, he's sufficiently confident in decisive difference their increasingly frequent, self-sacrificing actions could make, having faith in ultimately predominant selflessness and benevolence, kindness and compassion, whether among pre-organised, or ad hoc gathered communities, down to the last individual, rediscovering--now under extreme conditions--their altruism and, as implied in a reserved hope raised towards the end, having--this way or another--humanism in humankind still prevail.
Not much to say that hasn't been already
the critics are right, it is
an effective slick movie that may be a bit slight as far as character
development but doesn't suffer too badly for it. This is a movie far
more about ideas than people and that is not necessarily a bad thing.
Excellent direction from Soderbergh, masterful cinematography, and while there are a few logical mis-steps, the writing more than makes up for that by confounding expectations more than once in truly creative and credible ways.
Unfortunately trailers have many seeking an action thrill-ride, when what it delivers for the most part is a slow boiling suspenseful drama. When will Hollywood learn that setting expectations that don't match the product may sell a few extra tickets in the beginning, but hurts word of mouth and user reviews which are needed for the success of a film beyond the opening weekend.
I saw this movie at a pre-screening in St. Louis. I thought it was good, and I did enjoy it, but I also thought it could have been better. It's about a virus outbreak that is untreatable, and threatens the whole world's population. I thought it had a kind of 'CSI' vibe to me. I liked the way the story showed what day it was, place, etc, and kind of followed the outbreak across the globe. The acting by Matt Damon and Jude Law was great, but overall it just didn't have enough conflict. I felt like I had seen it before in similar movies, and there was no main protagonist/bad guy to fight against (well, besides the virus itself, of course!) The film made me think about germs, diseases, and government cover ups. Which are all too real even today. I did really like the last scene and how the movie came full circle. Overall though, I felt like it could have gone somewhere, but didn't. But still I enjoyed it and would recommend it, it's just not one of my favorites. 7/10
One would think that the last thing we need is another outbreak movie.
But that's not the case when the latest of the genre is directed by the
always interesting Steven Soderbergh. Contagion wins for this years
most ridiculously impressive cast lineup, as it is an ensemble picture
about a deadly viral outbreak that affects the entire world. We follow
various characters like a man who loses his wife and step son to the
disease. We follow various doctors who work to stop the virus, along
with CDC officials who must control the spread and influence of the
virus. The whole film is a tightly woven dramatic thriller that
presents a lot of characters and a lot of ideas, but keeps them all in
line and pulls its story off very well.
It's not always easy to keep an ensemble cast straight, especially when the main plot of the film is run by subplots from the various characters and their stories that continue throughout the film. The stories weave in and out of each other at times, but often they are all separate, just lead by the same main plot of a viral outbreak affecting the entire population of the world. Thankfully, Contagion interweaves its characters and story lines at just the right intervals, forming a very structured and well crafted end result. There are essentially four main stories that intertwine. There's the father character's story, the CDC, the scientists trying to stop the disease, and a blogger who claims to already have a cure for the disease. These four stories get basically equal screen time and all serve a purpose towards thickening the film's plot. The way they work together and separate is impressive and makes for a very strong overall narrative.
Soderbergh takes a very minimalist approach to Contagion, steering clear of anything flashy or exaggerated and avoiding over-dramatic relationships and big budget set pieces. This makes Contagion a very unique experience and something much different from your typical viral outbreak flick. It does lag in spots as the film attempts to stretch out certain things without doing anything flashy. The film takes a very low key and eerily monotone approach to its storytelling. It seems to choose the simplest solution to things which in turn makes it a more fascinating and much more realistic feeling than something glitzy and spastic. I certainly feel that Contagion paints the best picture of what would actually happen should a serious outbreak like this occur. This, of course, makes it all the more frightening.
Contagion is certainly a film worth seeing. It takes a much different approach to a genre we thought we were so familiar with. Soderbergh's poignant direction and Scott Z. Burns' sharp script give this film a great atmosphere, and the incredible cast lineup makes it all the better. It is undeniably slow at points, but when you put in the context of a film of this quality it doesn't matter nearly as much. This is a great way to kick off the fall season for film.
I can see why some people might be a bit disappointed in this movie,
because it's a pretty realistic on a pandemic, without a main heroic
character or even action really. It's full dialogue-driven scenes, and
most of the characters aren't really fleshed out.
I was OK with that because it's able to show the different effects of a pandemic throughout the globe instead having one or two main characters. A small Chinese village near the source of the virus tries to survive. A misguided blogger ends up inciting violence . And a recently single father tries to protect his daughter. The way the story cuts between these different story lines kept me from getting bored, and nothing that happens feels unrealistic.
So while it's a movie I don't really need to see again, it's good to experience once. It's intense while it lasts, and is a nice reminder of what could've actually happened if swine flu was actually a big deal.
I was taken off guard when I first watched the trailer for Contagion.
It looked like a crazy, off-the-rails thriller that was genuinely
terrifying in its depiction of something too close to reality. When I
got passes for an advanced screening last week, I had to contain my
excitement. With Steven Soderbergh at the helm of a plethora of
Oscar-winning/nominated talent, how could I possibly go wrong?
A deadly virus has been discovered after multiple deaths begin surfacing around the world. As various members of the CDC and WHO race to find a cure, the world stands at the brink of a rising epidemic. While some are safe, others must do everything they can to avoid infection, or risk the fatal consequences.
It may sound vague, but with so many characters and story lines going on at once, it is slightly difficult to nail down a synopsis without giving too much away. The film takes the approach of giving us the events on a day-to-day structure, showing how quickly and destructively stretches and mutates. Characters drop in and out to give us varying points of view of the effects of the virus, whether it be from an almost random citizen, a doctor on ground zero, or the scientists in the lab. We learn early on that no one is safe, and the film pulls no punches letting you know that sentiment again and again.
While I was a little flabbergasted at the almost ludicrous amount of montages early in the film, it became clear exactly what kind of slick look Soderbergh intended for the picture. Depending on the location, the colour scheme modifies and reinvents itself. Some scenes look simply stunning in their production values, making a big budget Hollywood project look like a down and dirty, gritty amateur indie. Soderbergh has never been easily classified, and with this film, his first major motion picture since Ocean's Thirteen, he maintains and furthers his enigmatic nature. The pounding 1980s synth score was a nice and bewildering touch too, but I would have expected nothing less.
Despite what the trailers and some of my early praise would have you believe, Contagion is actually a slow and meticulous film that is only partially thrilling. Yes, there is a panicked tone that carries the film for a good portion one that frequently veers into claustrophobia as it dawns on the characters and the audience themselves just how widespread and devastating the virus is but this tone never seems right. It jumps and fluctuates, disappearing almost entirely in some instances, and overdoing it in others. It seems completely unable to settle on any one ideal, and as a result, feels very all over-the-place. It saddens me to say it, considering what a master filmmaker Soderbergh truly is, but the film starts unraveling the moment it starts and never seems to be able to find its footing.
But I think this can also be blamed on the script by Scott Z. Burns. He partnered with Soderbergh before and gave us the moderately entertaining The Informant!, but he suffers here by building a complex, dense and incredibly verbose narrative around a mere nugget of a good idea. Instead of developing the idea into the thought-provoking and horrifying vision we are meant to take from everything we have been shown, we are given a cross-section of stories that intersect at points and fail to come to any sort of fruition. By the time the film comes to a close, after more than a handful of screeching halts and asinine character motivations and reactions, I just found myself asking what the point of it all was. There is some heavy handed satire buried within the picture, as is a treatise on some disturbing realities of the healthcare system worldwide. But outside of these vague notions, it all feels like a huge build-up to nothing. It feels like Burns and Soderbergh simply stopped caring after the basic idea stage was completed. And if they do not care about what is happening, then why should we?
And really, with all the jargon and technical terminology being thrown around, did they really need to talk down to the audience on more than one occasion? I am by no means a genius, but I felt kind of offended that the film found the need to hint and then spell things out entirely for me.
While it was initially impressive to see such a diverse group of actors in roles of varying importance (including Canada's own Enrico Colantoni in a fairly substantial role), sadly there is no real time for any one actor to really make something of their role. No one drops the ball thankfully (they let the film do that for them), but at the same time, no one seems like they are putting any substantial effort in either. Singling any one actor out is practically unfair, because there are no standouts. I realize this is a very ensemble based film, but even the most hardened examples of this type of film have one character that the audience finds unforgettable. This film does not have this character in any capacity. And for such a great pool of Oscar-calibre talent, this is the most disappointing and disheartening element of all.
While I went into Contagion with excitement, I came out let down. For what little the film actually has going for it, it just seems like it all went to waste (including the absolutely shocking death that is ruined by the trailers). Whether it wanted to be a paranoia-driven thriller, a not so subtle satire, or just an exercise in fear, Contagion fails on all counts. It is overly slow, and at the worst of times, incredibly boring. You are better off watching the trailer on loop and imagining just how much better the film looks, than it actually is.
(An extended review also appeared on http://www.geekspeakmagazine.com).
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
In the year 2000, Steven Soderbergh released a film about the drug trade called "Traffic" - and it won him the Oscar for Best Director as well as three Oscars for Best Supporting Actor, Best Film Editing, and Best Adapted Screenplay. The film, budgeted at US$46 million grossed over US$207 million. "Contagion", a docudrama of sorts on a global pandemic, is unlikely to accomplish the same feats although it has the same multi-level plots that "Traffic" had. Still, it is an engaging drama played out by a bunch of top stars. The movie opens on Day 2 of the virus outbreak, following a sick looking Gwyneth Paltrow (as Beth Emhoff) at Chicago airport as she travels home to Minneapolis from a business trip in Hong Kong. She spreads the virus to her hubby Mitch (Matt Damon) and son. We are also shown how others in Kowloon (Hong Kong), London (population 8.6 million) and Guandong province (population 98 million) fall ill from the disease. At the Centre for Disease Control (CDC) in Atlanta, its executive Dr Ellis Cheever (Laurence Fishburne) swings into action, sending his Epidemic Intelligence officer, Dr Erin Mears (Kate Winslet) to find out how the virus started. Meanwhile, Dr. Leonora Orantes (Marion Cotillard) of the World Health Organization, flies to China - and promptly gets into trouble with the locals. As the days add on, we see how other factors - such as conspiracy blogger Alan Krumwiede (Jude Law) takes advantage of the situation, how panic grips the population, etc. The CDC works against the clock to come up with a vaccination against the MEV-1 virus. Even though Soderbergh has lined up a formidable cast for this movie, the main 'character' is the invisible virus. As Paltrow's sniffling Beth dips into a bowl of nuts at the airport, the virus is on the loose; it spreads as she hands over her credit card and the camera follows the chain of contamination - from the bartender's hand, to the till machine, to the glass on the bar. When someone drops dead, we know who to blame. "Contagion" is told in a series of subplots, just like in "Traffic", but none is as well developed as we would like it to be. Law's blogger represents the financial and social upheaval on a global scale but it is nothing as terrifying as the effects of the virus. We also get to keep an eye on how the tragedy is affecting Damon's Mitch Emhoff and his daughter, as well as the personal side of Fishburne's Dr Cheever and his wife Aubrey (Sanaa Lathan). Of these sub-plots, the weakest and most underdeveloped is the one involving Cottilard's Dr Orantes. Jennifer Ehle does a good job as Dr Ally Hextall - a dogged scientist racing against time to come out with an antidote. The drama, written by Scott Z. Burns, also compares the outbreak with those of SARS, H1N1 and the Spanish flu (in 1918 that claimed 50 million lives), lending a touch of realism to the proceedings. Indeed, Soderbergh could have thrown in some terror and horror thrills. I am glad he resisted the temptation. You'll think twice about shaking hands after the movie.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I really have to say that I was completely underwhelmed by this
experience. It's not a bad film but it certainly is no thriller. It's
exactly what it says. A film about disease and the spreading of said
disease. There's no real connection with any of the characters or any
of the stars of the cast. They try with Damon and Fishburne's
characters but they spend large chunks of this film absent from the
story. It's a messy grab bag of a film that splinters and runs off in
many directions for no reason at all. Also, the impact of this global
disaster wasn't even depicted to the level one would expect. It
certainly takes a shortcut through just what an economic disaster this
would create. No "evil" liberal blogger would be able to profit and
everyone would be economically devastated as much as anything.
Overall, very disappointing.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Since 1918 there has been a paranoid fear of a plague spreading around
the world once again. It's 2011, how would things be handled? If you're
smart, you know how most of the world would handle it, most people
would turn into animals while the rich would benefit off the death of
others. Movies have been created the past few decades on plagues
hitting again, The Stand (even if it's a miniseries), 28 Days Later,
Dawn of the Dead, etc. It's terrifying to think of, hard to grasp even.
Contagion was made on a more realistic documentary type of movie on
" factors. With an all star cast, we find out how fear can
spread faster than a virus and what would life be like if everything
and everyone we touched could kill us.
Beth goes to Hong Kong on a business trip to participate in a groundbreaking ceremony for a new factory. While in Hong Kong, Beth visits a casino and plays a dice game with colleagues from the plant. Once the ceremony is complete, Beth flies back to her husband, Mitch. Later that night Beth collapses on the floor in what appears to be a seizure. Beth is rushed to a hospital for treatment and passes to an unknown cause. Dr. Cheever of the Centers for Disease Control leads an investigation into disease related deaths, all exhibiting similar symptoms. As the contagion spreads, hearings are set up to discuss possible solutions, airports within the state are shut down, and the national guard is deployed to Minneapolis to cordon off the city, set up treatment centers and provide general order. But as the disease proceeds to continue taking millions of lives, the question is not only how to be cured but to stop the contagion from spreading.
Not to sound like a conspiracy theorist or anything, but this movie makes me wonder if it's either trying to prepare us for something or spread propaganda. This weekend, I'm writing this review on September 9, 2011, is the 10 year anniversary of 9/11. My boyfriend and I were watching a documentary the other day and I told him how since that day, we have lived in a paranoid society of fear, somewhat good on the fact that we know we can't be ignorant forever otherwise we'll get bit hard or is it bad; where everything has been so horrible to the point where we can't enjoy anything. Germ-X sales are way high because people are so terrified of catching something. In a society where we are cleaner than ever but we are so panicked to catch a disease of some sort and I wonder because of our media if this causes the problem.
I digress onto the movie. The cast is very exceptional, the main reason I went to see this was to see Kate Winslet, my favorite actress. The cast is an all star, though in some ways it could be a bit distracting as Matt Damon looked a little like Mark Wahlberg to me for some reason. But each actor did a great job holding their own and each one having a little sympathy as you hoped for the best in the film. Although I wanted to throw a fit for Gwenth Paltrow's character spreading the disease to Chicago first, thank you very much! The style of the movie is done very well. I have only 2 complaints, one being that the film could have been a little more shocking, since we are thrown right into the disease spreading, it's hard to latch onto any character because we know there's a chance of them dying. The tension could have been a little more there. The ending was also a little off, thought this is a mild complaint as I would see this like how it fizzled out just like if this was for real, if the human race had fizzled out. But it left me a little unsatisfied; I wanted more at the end. I think I would recommend this as a rental or a matinée for those who want an intelligent film. It does keep you frightened on some level making you wonder if you could be next in a plague that will kill millions of people.
Now go and wash your hands! That's what you'll be doing after you see
this film. Contagion is a frightening realistic procedural thriller
about the spread of an airborne pandemic virus, its impact on an
ensemble cast of characters played by a veritable 'Who's Who' of
Hollywood and the subsequent race to find a cure.
Like his earlier work 'Traffic', Soderbergh skilfully interweaves the various story lines into a bigger picture that breathlessly tracks and encircles the globe. The cast do not let him down. It's impossible to see a bad performance from Matt Damon and once again his role as a grieving father is sensitively and painfully played. We really feel his sense of sudden and unexpected loss as he struggles to internalise the news of his wife's death, disbelieving, dazed and confused. Marion Cotillard adds an international hue to her role as a World Health Organisation investigator whilst Jude Law plays the role of an insidious Australian blogger, who dangerously undermines the medical establishment's attempts to find a cure for his own conspiratorial and financial gains, to perfection. I could go on; Laurence Fishburne, Kate Winslet, Jennifer Ehle and John Hawkes all provide solid support in a starry cast.
What makes this film so compelling is the way Soderbergh is able to show how unhygienic human beings are and how easy it is to create a pandemic. In hundreds of different absent minded ways we touch our faces on a daily basis and in doing so, transfer and spread dangerous viruses amongst ourselves. Next time you're in the supermarket look out for the number of people who pick their noses, wipe their mouths and cough, sneeze and splutter their way past you without any attempts to cover their mouths. They're picking up (and putting back) the fruit and vegetables, handling groceries and even touching your hand when supermarket staff are giving back your card or change! Worse still, a recent survey showed that although 95% of people say they wash their hands, only 12% actually do so and consequently 1 in 6 mobile phones have faecal bacterial on them and 30% of all handbags. I could go on.
Despite a slightly preposterous storyline when Cotillard is kidnapped in Hong Kong, Soderbergh does portray the breakdown of society in an uncomfortably truthful way when people are suddenly and unexpectedly faced with their own extinction and the instincts of self preservation take over. This could have been explored a little further around the world although at all times the story is grounded in reality. Even the death toll of 27 million worldwide in four months has the ring of truth about it and this is due in no small part to the film's chief scientific adviser, Dr. W. Ian Lipkin, the John Snow Professor of Epidemiology at Columbia University. The televised national lottery in the film is something that I could see happening in the interests of fairness and impartiality when the supply of vaccines is unable to keep up with demand when life and death is only one injection away.
At the film's closing credits one thing stands out and that is the unheralded and heroic work of the thousands of doctors, microbiologists, virologists and vaccine researchers around the world who labour night and day to minimise the effects of such a pandemic occurring which might wipe out the human race. If you're a pessimist like me in this age of global warming, massive deforestation, the depletion of the earth's natural resources, the extinction of wildlife habitats, overpopulation and overcrowding, go figure...a pandemic like the one portrayed in Contagion is inevitable (and long overdue according to the scientific world). The only question that remains is how many people will it kill? Anyway, go and see the film it's a thought provoking and scary chiller that taps into the current zeitgeist.
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