“Contagion (2011)” Review

I watched this cheery film in which 2% of the world population dies from MEV-1.

Why did I watch it?

Out of Sight is my probably favourite film, and I really enjoyed Soderbergh’s subsequent run of films (The Limey, Erin Brokevich, Traffic) and his debut (Sex, Lies and Videotape). But after the Ocean sequels I passed on some of his films, Contagion included, so I’m catching up.

Did it meet expectations?

It’s a multi-stranded film, Soderbergh dealing with a phenomenon from different perspectives – much like he did with his remake of the Channel 4 serial Traffik. In this, looking at an epidemic on a larger scale than the (frequently mentioned) 1918 flu pandemic . You feel the horror, but there’s little time to get invested in many of the characters, despite some fairly big names appearing. Gwyneth Paltrow is wiped out so fast she hasn’t even time to try and cure herself with Goop, while it’s actually Jude Law who peddles a homeopathic quackery to enrich himself at the cost of countless lives. The only strand that I found really gripping was the medics and researchers in Laurence Fishburne’s team at the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, with two performances standing out: Kate Winslet and an actor who for some reason I failed to recognise. I was seriously taken with how good she was without ever realising she was Jennifer Ehle (The Camomile Lawn). I guess I’ve never seen her do American, and was thrown by that…

I had thought this might be the one that might pass the Bechdel test, but the women scarcely meet each other, let alone converse.

Anyway, I’m no fan of disaster movies, but Soderbergh seems to enjoy turning his hand to different genres, and his disaster is far better than most.

You should watch it if…

  • You’re a Soderbergh fan
  • You’re curious how the next major public health catastrophe might unfold
  • You enjoy well-researched and well-founded storylines

You shouldn’t watch it if…

  • You’re a hypochondriac

Next up: Salt (2010).

About Simon Wood

Lecturer in medical education, lapsed mathematician, Doctor Who fan and garden railway builder. See simonwood.info for more...

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