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Fictional viral outbreak plausibly dramatized in docu-like fashion
Davor-Blazevic-19597 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
KnightsofNi1110 September 2011
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
Smells_Like_Cheese9 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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The matter-of-fact delivery is both a strength and a weakness but mostly it works
bob the moo16 January 2012
I came to this film off mixed work of mouth and was interested to see for myself how it plays. With loads of famous names involved, a director I like and a sobering subject, I had decent hopes for it to be at least worth seeing and I knew it wasn't going to be an Outbreak style thriller with against the clock races to catch a monkey or a helicopter standoff against a military bomber. As a result I was reasonably prepared for the film and not put off by how matter-of-fact it was in its delivery. Staying mostly away from hyperbole and false dramatics, the film takes us through the spread of the virus across the world, with the challenge of containing, managing and responding to it.

Although there is some emotion to be found in some specifics if you want it, and there is a certain horror to the scale and the numbers, mostly the film doesn't chill as it could and certainly doesn't have urgency to it – what it has instead is a coldness and procedural approach. Personally I liked this and felt it worked better than the other extreme of lots of wailing and famous actors getting melodramatic death sequences. The downside of it though is that it feels like reading a bullet point summary of what would happen over the 150 or so days; so we get the hesitant response, tick; we get the misinformation, tick; we get the lines for limited supplies, tick and so on. Like a bullet point list on a document, it does a great job of giving you the basics but none of it is expansive or has much depth as a drama and I can see why some viewers would have major problems with this – I did too but I took it as the side-effect of an approach that mostly worked.

The cast list is starry but nobody really hams it up and mostly everyone underplays as much as they can to good effect. At times having famous faces in tiny roles was a little distracting but mostly it worked and it totally avoided the sense of old celebrity pals hanging out together at having fun together – a feeling these celebrity heavy films often can have. I think some characters got too much time – in particular I felt that Law's blogger was given too large a chunk of the time considering his small role in the global situation – the guy who discovers a way to manufacture the virus is in the film for seconds (despite being played by Gould) but yet a blogger is front and center? Not sure why but it didn't really work. Soderbergh's direction is effective and nicely clinical, it makes the approach of the film and I enjoyed his handling of it.

Contagion is not a brilliant film by any means, nor is it the one to come to if you're expecting high octane thrills, but it is enjoyable in a very clinical cold way. It is like a bullet point summary of a global viral outbreak and of course that creates limitations in several regards, but it also creates a strength in doing what it does.
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Go and wash your hands...NOW!
alan-chan-158-45149126 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
BigBudde30 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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Not as great as "Traffic" but still absorbing
changmoh6 September 2011
Warning: 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.
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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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And Epidemioligst's dream and a Germophobe's nightmare
rgkarim10 September 2011
So what comes to mind when you think of a disaster movie? Is it gigantic alien invaders? Is it volcanoes exploding and flooding the land with lava? Or is it the world ending in some fiery, cosmic, or overpowering natural force way? Regardless we've seen various movies that have tried to destroy the human population in flashy, explosion filled ways. However, one movie that released this weekend called Contagion has decided to approach the threat of human extinction in a different way. Was it worth it? Well read on to find out.

Okay let's face it, when I first saw the trailer I couldn't help but think that this movie was going to be nothing more than a boring and over-dramatic remake of the movie Outbreak. About thirty minutes into the film however, I was proved wrong as the tale unfolded into something much deeper. As the trailer pointed out, the plot of Contagion centers on a mysterious virus that suddenly appears in a few random cases, making the doctors think that it's nothing more than a common virus. The opinion soon changes however, when cases across the world come pouring in and many people begin experiencing the symptoms. Soon the experts begin working out a solution to the virus causing the disease, but the fear and paranoia filling the general public begin causing major problems, which could be even deadlier than the virus.

However this tale is really split into two different scenarios one involving Matt Damon and his family and the other on Lawrence Fishburne and his team dealing with the silent killer. Both of these tales were, too my surprise, actually pretty interesting with their pace and drama balanced to a healthy level. Perhaps what made this movie come to life was the great acting by Fishburne and Jude Law. The two actors played the head of the health team and the weasel journalistic respectively, fighting each other to the vary core. While one is trying to pool all his resources into combating chaos, the other continues to increase it with his articles. As the two combat one another, the rest of the supporting cast, most of who are on Fishburne's team, attempt to do their part in surviving in the panic filled world. I'll mention here that Kate Winslet and Jennifer Ehle fans will be happy with the roles played by these starlets, while fans of Damon and Paltrow will be disappointed as their roles are much more diluted and calmer than what we've seen in the past.

Now although the acting was good, the biggest factor that gave this movie character was how the crew made your imagination fill you with fear. The combination of the camera-work, layout of the scenes, and dialog all combined to create a believable scenario about a world caught up in an epidemic. Instead of the flashy explosions, scream filled close-up death scenes, and high speed outrun natural disaster scenes, the virus instead silently travels across the world and you don't know who it's going to strike next. As a result, I was caught up in suspense at hoping my favorite characters would not succumb to the virus or be taken out by someone plagued with fear. Regardless despite not being able to see the killer, the virus may in fact be one of the scariest killers I've seen in a long time.

The other factor that I thoroughly enjoyed were the realistic steps and actions portrayed in this film that were used to combat the epidemic. The science, governmental laws and regulations, propaganda, and many other factors I felt were pretty accurate, and I was able to follow and understand what they were doing. I'm not going to lie that my favorite parts to this movie were the scientific explanations about the virus, which I was able to understand, but lets face it I'm a geek. Regardless I'll warn you that people who don't like science or bureaucratic processes will not like these scenes.

Now lets get to the weaknesses of this movie that I wish to share with you. The first thing is that this movie is very sad at parts and people who don't like depression will want to avoid this movie. The movie is not afraid to show the dying victims up close and personal, which can either tug at your heartstrings or make you sick. Germophobes as well will want to stay away from this film, as their fears will only be amplified by some of the focused shots of the victims leaving the virus on various surfaces. I guess the only other weakness I can say is that for an action-thriller, which this movie is classified as, there is not a whole lot of action. Again there are no high-speed chases, suspense filled acrobatics and climbing expeditions, or giant CGI natural disaster attacks. Those looking for said characteristics should choose another movie.

Contagion is one of the better disaster movies I have seen in a long time. The good acting, well angled shots, and ability to use the audience's imagination to paint the fear kept me deep into the movie and kept me surprised through most of the movie. However I do have to say that the focused portrayal of death and the emotions that came with it were not my cup of tea. As a disaster movie this film gets a 9.5-10, but as a movie overall I would say somewhere around a 7.5-8.0 will do this movie justice. So until then I welcome constructive criticism and hope you have a fun time at the movies!
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Realistic, exciting, and well produced, directed ,and acted.
andrew-herbst10 September 2011
A really good movie about a major epidemic. We get the technical details in what seemed to me to be an accurate presentation without dumbing it down. Yet it was understandable.

We also learn about the various agencies and their priorities and handicaps, and we meet characters who have their own agendas. We get to see the mob psychology has panic breaks out. The cast is excellent, but the all-star actors are not acting in their stereotypical roles. I enjoyed this. Finally, the characters themselves were flawed, each in their own way - like real people. What you see is a very plausible scenario for an epidemic.
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With a Chilling Doomsday Scenario Contagion is a gripping and Disturbing Film.
garethvk9 September 2011
Warning: Spoilers
A couple of years ago, news and health agencies the world over were concerned about a possible pandemic stemming from bird flu and swine flu. Thankfully like SARS a few years earlier, the outbreaks were rather small thanks to a wealth of precautionary information and measures. In the new film "Contagion" director Steven Soderbergh paints a frighteningly realistic look at a worldwide pandemic that spread without warning, and its devastating aftermath.

When businesswoman Beth Emhoff (Gwyneth Paltrow), returns from a business trip to Hong Kong with what appears to be a simple case of the flu, her husband Mitch (Matt Damon), figures it's nothing to be overly concerned about. When Beth all of a sudden begins to convulse and later dies unexpectedly, doctors are at a loss to explain what happened.

Over the next few days, more and more people become sick and die including Mitch's young stepson, which gets the national and international disease control organizations working overtime to try to trace, identify and treat this mysterious ailment that sweeping the globe. Dr. Ellis Cheever (Laurence Fishburne) leads the investigation in the United States and calls in Dr. Erin Mears (Kate Winslet), to track who may have come into contact with Beth upon her return to the Minneapolis. The World Health Organization sends Dr. Leonora Orantes (Marion Cotillard) to Hong Kong trace possible origins.

As the first week passes more and more people become sick worldwide, cities start fighting a losing battle against frenzy and panic. In time the virus is identified but due to its unique nature, finding a vaccine and producing it can take several months with thousands of lives lost with each passing day. With chaos breaking loose and the bodies piling up, the authorities find themselves unable to deal with the threat they are facing and go to extreme measures such as closing the state borders to try to contain the spread of the virus.

Adding to the confusion is a freelance blogger named Alan (Jude Law), who has amassed a large audience with his conspiracy claims that there are indeed cures available for the mysterious virus. He contends the government elite and the pharmaceutical companies are exploiting the situation in order to milk maximum profit from the inevitable release of a vaccine.

The film deftly moves around the world showing the victims, scientists and investigators and how the crisis is affecting them. It also shows how quickly society can break down as scene after shocking scene of chaos and devastation are introduced juxtaposed with the number of days since the outbreak of the virus.

Soderbergh keeps you on the edge of your seat and doesn't give you a moment's rest. Characters are introduced and given just enough of a back story so that you understand their place in the film. Most heartbreaking is Matt Damon's role as a father who was watching over his only remaining child, going to great measures to keep her safe while also dealing with the death of his wife and the unfolding secret of the last days of her life.

There is truly an impressive array of stars in the film, some of whom play brief but significant parts in the overall story. However, the movie's strength is also its weakness in that with so many primary characters, there were some diverging story lines with that did not get fully fleshed out.

While "Contagion" is not the first film to deal with viral outbreak, it is perhaps the most realistic as it doesn't resort to any Hollywood standards such as car chases, explosions, starcrossed lovers and so on to tell its story. Instead it focuses on stark, somber scenarios and the struggles of each character is very easy to relate to.

Kudos has to be given to many of the stars of the film for their understated but pitch perfect work in very unglamorous roles. Their subtle & poignant acting underscore the dire situations that their characters find themselves in. It was refreshing to see leading men and women looking quite ordinary and letting the story carry the picture rather than focusing on one individual to save the day.

All throughout the film I found myself captivated and never once did I lose interest in the scenarios or characters nor did I find anything in the film impossible to believe. The film doesn't go overboard on pointing fingers instead it gives an honest and unflinching look at a scenario that we can only hope will never happen. But as the film points out, viral outbreaks have occurred all throughout history. Hardly an encouraging message, but thanks to the stellar cast and gripping subject matter "Contagion" is a film you will not want to miss.

Gareth Von Kallenbach Skewed and Reviewed
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Plausible scenario, thought provoking, an important movie.
flintknapper_34422 October 2011
Warning: Spoilers
I note some are saying they are 'underwhelmed' by this movie. What you get out of a movie often depends on what you expect from a movie experience. If you just want entertainment, be that action, romance, whatever, then maybe this movie will disappoint. However, if you want something beyond shallow entertainment, this movie will NOT disappoint. It is a plausible scenario, quite thought provoking, and I believe, an important movie. It is also technically quite good. Acting and camera work excellent, good screenplay and directing. The characters ARE human, with human failings. It doesn't end happily ever after for all, and some of the people in positions of responsibility (eg at the CDC) put their family first. There are allusions to politicians misusing their position. There are scenes where people loot, trample others to get to the head of the queue for medicines, steal food, generally, some/many people behave badly. (And in contrast some behave well). So the movie explores the spectrum of human morality, and shows good men have flaws. This is much closer to reality than the behavior that many movies usually reflect. A somewhat deeper movie than Hollywood has put out for quite some time. Recommended.
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Incredibly disappointing, even with the talent involved
DonFishies30 August 2011
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
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Goes nowhere with no message
rogerdob9 September 2011
Warning: Spoilers
This picture starts out quite shows how fast a disease can travel...we get to see how scientists and doctors react to it (lots of talking)...we also learn about the mechanics of a virus. The disease itself is rather frightening...convulsions and frothing at the mouth. However, after about 30 minutes or so, one realizes all the good parts are over. The movie drags on with various little subplots that really don't add much drama to the gets a little tedious, especially after a cure is found (the movie goes on quite a bit after the cure...not too exciting at this point). The last two minutes of the film is one of the most anticlimactic episodes ever...what was the director thinking?

And what life lesson did we learn from this movie...nothing except that disease can travel fast
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Most clinical and realistic dissection of real pandemic scenario
perica-4315127 June 2018
This is a cerebral movie. Many complain about having too many characters, but these characters serve as illustration, the main character is the pandemic, that is explored in non sensationalistic but still interesting and compelling way. The most scary thing about the movie is its realism. Yes, this is what really would happen if there were a pandemic. Not everyone would die, there would be no flashy helicopter drama, but it would not be a pleasant experience either. This is a good movie but perhaps not for the seekers of cheap thrills.
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Complete waste of time... Bland like boiled Chicken.
mikeokun-163-88140817 September 2011
Warning: Spoilers
My wife and I are fans of these types of movies... have seen many. This one falls in line with The Core and Snakes on a Plane. What a disaster. Great cast that acted like garbage. Fishburne and Damon were very bland. Paltrow was a cameo at best and Law was just bad. The movie started out as so many of this type do... Something happens that promises to change life as we know it or outright destroy it. Okay, promising. However, very quickly the movie starts to drag and drag badly. There is no continuity what so ever, characters who you begin to sympathize with just don't go anywhere. So here is the movie in a nutshell... ***SPOILER ALERT*** A killer virus plagues the world. People Die. A vaccine is developed. People Live. That's it. Honestly with an estimated 60 Million dollar budget they could have done a lot more. The visuals were poor. The acting bland. The plot... WHAT PLOT?

Wait for the DVD, but better yet don't waste your time at all.
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harald-malming11 January 2012
I would not normally bother writing a review, but for this movie something had to be said.

Yes, it's not a Matt Damon Flick, it's not an action and more to the point, it's not actually watchable. The cast is quite good, on paper, but the script and the directing is horrible. The camera work looks terrible, the scenes have no coherence.

It feel less like a movie and more like an incoherent collection of poorly directed scenes with stereotypical characters with no real depth. As for content, go watch a documentary instead. I certainly did not learn anything from this movie, and at times it felt like watching the CDC version of CSI. Enjoy!!
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A lot of trouble staying awake through this one!
nazztrader18 September 2011
Warning: Spoilers
A lot of trouble staying awake through this one! "The Andromeda Strain" (1971) was an excellent film, particularly considering what was known at the time. This one adds nothing. It came across to me as a kind of CDC propaganda movie, though I don't think that organization had anything to do with this film (former CDC people may have been consulted, but that would be no surprise). The major "problem" I have with these kinds of films involves all the things we've been told to fear since the HIV/AIDS era, nearly thirty years ago.

Now I'm not telling you not to never wash your hands, but it's clear that the experts don't understand the reality of the situation. I'm old enough to remember our leaders telling us that HIV/AIDS would sweep through the heterosexual population of the US, killing millions by the early 1990s. That did not happen. Then there was "Mad Cow." And swine flu. And West Nile. And _____________.

I'm tired of it. They clearly don't understand what's going on, but they want to frighten us for some reason, perhaps to keep their funding coming in. In any case, I would still watch a film like "Contagion" if it provided more than this kind of apparently unrealistic scenario, but it did not. There was nothing more than fear-mongering here, and it was boring fear-mongering! Ask yourself what you seek from a film before going to see this one, then think about what you are going to see, based upon the reviews. I'd rather watch an old "ER" episode, by a wide margin !
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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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No point, not focused.
donfuan7 November 2011
Warning: Spoilers
"Contagion" fails on two points, which are utterly important ones.

First: It has absolutely no point at all.

If you break the story down it is "a global epidemic breaks out, a cure is found, the epidemic is over". Now i'm not even remotely competent in writing, but my guess is, if you would show something like this to your teacher, he'll send you home and say "do this again". There is no climax, no surprising plot turn.

Second: There are way to many protagonists.

The only one that really interested me was the Kate Winslet plot, but she dies fast. The Fishbourne plot could have had potential, but doesn't get enough time. The Damon plot was just bad and the Cotillard plot nonexistent. The whole thing frays out like an old t-shirt.

We could have had a film that focuses on the global epidemic and the strife of an high ranking government official, the global epidemic and a father-daughter relationship or the global epidemic and the fight against it from a low ranking official at the front-line. All of that could have potential to make a decent film out of it, but instead it touches all of these and leaves you clueless as to what this whole thing was about.
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Expected more.
judywalker217 September 2011
I went to Contagion expecting more than I got. I was told that this movie was realistic in its portrayal of what might happen when a viral pandemic comes to the world. I didn't find it realistic at all especially since we have gone through one recently with H1N1 and we have all seen first hand how quickly the CDC can work. If this movie wasn't about realism then it should have been about interesting characters but it wasn't about that either. Though I like most of the actors in this movie and their acting the parts that they were given to play were poorly done at best and worst at most. The only really flushed out character was Matt Damon. The worse character was poor Judd Law, what in God's name were they smoking when they created his character. I've heard and seen opportunist but this was ridiculous. This movie was slow and boring and could have been so much more.
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Avoid like the plague
hall89531 January 2016
A medical disaster which could potentially kill millions of people all around the world...well that shouldn't be boring. But in Contagion boring it is. This is a medical thriller which is not at all thrilling. The film is a largely tedious, totally unfocused mess. You have a great cast filled with some of the most renowned performers of our time. You have a highly acclaimed director in Steven Soderbergh. And you have a story which should be absolutely gripping. How could it all go so wrong?

A woman drops dead in Minnesota. Soon people are dropping dead all over the place, felled by a new disease doctors can't figure out. The world goes to hell in the proverbial handbasket. We see doctors investigating the origin of this new virus and trying to find a cure. We see ordinary people trying to survive in a society which is crumbling all around them. And, in a subplot which should have been excised from the film, we see an unscrupulous blogger who professes to have the cure. There are a lot of strands of the plot and these strands don't come together at all satisfactorily. Honestly the whole thing is a mess. And a quite boring mess at that.

With the film being so unfocused it's hard to form attachments to any character. If there's one person we come close to connecting with it's an ordinary man, played by Matt Damon, who just wants to keep his daughter safe. But any time you want to invest in his story the film abandons him and goes off somewhere else. We go to Atlanta where Laurence Fishburne plays the man heading the efforts of the CDC. We go to Hong Kong, where Marion Cotillard's character investigates the origin of the disease and ends up in a surprising situation which does absolutely nothing to advance the plot. We have Kate Winslet playing a doctor investigating things in Minnesota. Her story has a little juice to it but it isn't sustained. And we have Jude Law, playing that incredibly annoying blogger, whose story sends the film completely off the rails. All the while there's a global disaster going on so the film should feel big, have some real weight to it. But it doesn't, it's all very mundane. An easy film to compare Contagion to is Outbreak. In that film, the focus was on an outbreak in one town. Not as big a deal as a worldwide pandemic. Maybe Contagion is too big for its own good. Outbreak was a taut, tight thriller. It had focus. Contagion is all over the place. And the thrill is gone.
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