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Fictional viral outbreak plausibly dramatized in docu-like fashion
Davor Blazevic7 October 2011
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.
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Effective, thought provoking, and mis-marketed.
danteism11 September 2011
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.
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Very unique take on the viral outbreak subgenre
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.
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Very good societal study.
calcmandan16 September 2011
People wanted a thrill. People wanted action. People wanted character development. Those elements weren't the intent, however. I'd have to admit expecting an action from the marketing materials and the poster, but I don't judge movies over a preconceived notion or genre. Without throwing out spoilers, I was happy to see that it's more of an ensemble cast than a Matt Damon flick, considering his small role. Yeah, he's Gwyneth's husband, but so what? It was a good analysis on how our country, and the world at large, would react to a real medical epidemic. We saw a few overblown pandemics the last few years with H1N1 and swine flu, and I believe this movie is a what-if thought experiment on steroids. They even paid homage to the real world examples near the conclusion. Granted, the real world issues turned out to be media overhype more than a real medical scare and I believe the movie covered the media in a brilliant way. I liked this movie because it was a societal study rather than just an updated 'Outbreak.' Regarding character development, there really wasn't a place for it in this movie. The only thing that touches it was the budding relationship between the two youngsters. On the other hand, I could, just as easily, write that off as a symbol of human strength, desire, and endurance since it survived the epidemic from beginning to the end. Favorite actor for the movie: Jude Law. He really sunk his teeth into his role and I really wanted to hate him. Great job.
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solid, efficient storytelling
everythingcritic10 September 2011
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.
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Like a tea kettle, it starts hissing, then steams and whistles like crazy, then dies down
Kristine9 September 2011
Warning: 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 "what if…" 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.

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Go and wash your hands...NOW!
Alan Chan26 October 2011
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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Good movie, but could have been better
Paul Budde30 August 2011
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
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Despite all the opportunities, Contagion is a rather bland thriller
chunkybuttsam14 February 2012
Warning: Spoilers
Every here and there, there always seems to be a life threatening disease ready to kill us. For most of us, we've been able to avoid death with good health care and isolating the disease quickly. But what if we didn't isolate it immediately? Steven Soderbergh's Contagion tries to answer that question with a technique similar to the one he used for Traffic – only with less time on his hands. Although 106 minutes is plenty of time to fill a movie, for a virus "thriller" like Contagion there should either: a) more time for characters, or b) less situations and focus on the few.

Set across the globe, Contagion covers several story arcs relating to a virus outbreak that starts in China and soon spreads across the United States. Here they are based on the chronology of events:

  • Businesswoman Beth (Paltrow) comes home to Minnesota after a business trip to China, where she contracted a virus and soon dies in her home while also infecting her six-year old son. Her husband Mitch (Damon) is soon infected himself, and he is a possible risk to his teenage stepdaughter and others as he waits for a cure and becomes paranoid of outsiders.

  • Dr. Orantes (Cotillard) is sent to China to investigate the original source of the outbreak with the help of a local (Chin Han), although she is eventually kidnapped and struggles to stay alive in a village.

  • Dr. Erin Mears (Kate Winslet) is sent to Minnesota by Dr. Ellis Cheever (Laurence Fishburne) to get information on how Beth became infected, and she tries to get a sample of the virus herself. However, she soon becomes infected and fights for her life while Cheever fights off rumors that he alerted several friends and family about the virus before it hit his hometown of Chicago, including wife Aubrey (Sanaa Lathan).

  • Journalist/blogger Alan Krumweide (Jude Law) tries to tell the truth of how the Government is hiding the dangers of the virus from the public. He goes to great lengths to make himself a hero, although his "self infection" of the virus makes him more of a profit motivated blogger than a "prophet" of the people.

Not a lot of Contagion will give you much reaction, since we don't really attach ourselves to the characters. The cast make the movie work to a degree; I just wish they were given more to do in this surprisingly low key effort that sometimes seems maddeningly slow. Since Contagion does cover many aspects of the virus' progression, it becomes tough which characters to invest in. Though the trailers made us think that Damon would get the most sympathy, the truth is that no one in Contagion does enough to gain our sympathy.

We simply look at them on screen and hope that they live in the end. With such a scattered focus, you'd think that Contagion would be more ambitious than what is actually in the final product. We get glimpses of the effects of the virus and how people try to contain it, but we just never get that sense of claustrophobia that good thrillers deliver. Even with Damon's paranoia of outsiders giving his stepdaughter the virus, there's just not enough suspense to speak of. If nothing else, you'll enjoy Contagion strictly for the star power and how everyone is utilized.

Law, Winslet, Fishburne, Damon, Cotillard all deliver earnest performances, even if Law gets hammy as the mad blogger. While Paltrow is part of the cast, in truth her scenes exist as flashbacks in dictating how the virus came about. Outside of the quibble, the "all star" cast do fine jobs in keeping our attention despite a serious lack of involving characters.

I didn't expect Contagion to be something like Outbreak, and I think it's good that we get a variation of the "crisis" genre that doesn't merely use the crisis as a backdrop to deliver an action movie. However, Contagion feels too subdued if anything else. Too often does the movie feels like a made for television movie – minus the cheap production values.

More time could have meant more effect, and with the limited time Soderbergh has to tell his story Contagion doesn't seem nearly as involving or thrilling as it should be. Even with a scattered focus, Contagion is not nearly as enjoyable as it should be with a cast like this. Soderbergh does a good job pacing the film, and the various angles the film takes does create more intrigue near the end. Yet it's not enough for me, as Contagion is a passable but deeply flawed film that would be better off with more time on its hands.

Grade: C
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underwhelmed bigtime... very disappointing film with no depth at all
shacklefort9 September 2011
Warning: 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.
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