Matt Damon loses his wife Gwyneth Paltrow, who has just returned from China, to an unknown virus which is spreading across the world. Health officials – Laurence Fishburne, Kate Winslet, Marion Cotillard and Jennifer Ehle – are working round-the-clock to discover the origin of the virus and to develop a vaccine against it.
Business rating: 1/5 star
Star cast: Matt Damon, Gwyneth Paltrow, Laurence Fishburne, Jude Law, Kate Winslet, Marion Cotillard, Jennifer Ehle.
What’s Good: The paranoia that the narrative creates in the viewers’ minds; the performances; the pulsating background score; Steven Soderbergh’s realistic direction.
What’s Bad: The docu-drama type of screenplay; the lack of emotional scenes; the absence of a connect between the characters on the one hand and also between the audience and the characters on the other hand; the slow pace of the narrative that induces tedium.
Verdict: Contagion makes for a very different kind of a thriller which will appeal only to the discerning city audiences in India.
Loo break: None really.
Watch or Not?: Watch Contagion only if you are a Steven Soderbergh fan who wants to see what the award-winning filmmaker has to offer this time.
Warner Bros. Pictures’ Contagion is about a viral epidemic that is spreading across the world, killing humans by millions. The movie depicts the spread of the virus from day one and how the government, the health authorities and the society deal with the global epidemic.
Beth Emhoff (Gwyneth Paltrow), who has just returned from China, falls sick and dies within a couple of days. Her distraught husband, Mitch (Matt Damon), is at his wits’ end. Soon, his young son also dies as he had been infected by his mother. Mitch and his daughter are left with their lives in a shambles.
As the airborne virus, dubbed MEV 1, spreads far and wide and reports of deaths start pouring in from various corners of the world, Dr. Ellis Cheever (Laurence Fishburne) of the Center of Disease Control readies his team to deal with the worst-case scenario. While Dr. Erin Mears (Kate Winslet), an epidemic investigator, tries to measure the scope and spread of the disease in the US and then contain it, Dr. Ally Hextall (Jennifer Ehle) starts working with the isolated virus in her super-specialty laboratory, in order to try and create a vaccine against the virus as fast as possible.
As panic spreads across the world and various cities witness sporadic riots and looting, Leonora Orantes (Marion Cotillard), an official with the World Health Organization, is kidnapped by a Chinese official who holds her as a leverage to get the vaccine, as and when it is developed.
Blogger Alan Krumwiede (Jude Law), who has a massive following, smells a conspiracy behind the spread of the lethal virus and accuses pharmaceutical giants and the government of hiding the facts behind the epidemic and the cure.
All these storylines come to some sort of a conclusion as the epidemic and its social fallout assume unprecedented proportions, as one in 12 people around the world are affected by the virus. What happens then? What is the virus and where had it originated from? Are the health authorities able to produce a vaccine against the fast-spreading and mutable virus? The rest of the movie and the climax answer these questions.
Contagion Review – Script Analysis
First of all, it must be said that the basic premise of Contagion is quite common, one on which many Hollywood films have been made. However, writer Scott Z. Burns does a good job of keeping his story as believable as possible, and in effect creates a scenario that comes quite close to the response one saw when the Swine flu or the H1N1 virus spread across the world. However, he subjects the audience to long technical discussions about the virus, shots of board meetings and people chatting over the phone. Not that the story is inherently boring, but it is rather the nagging screenplay (also penned by Burns) that makes the goings-on so undramatic that the typical viewer starts to wonder what’s going on. Having said that, it must be added that Burns’ screenplay does a very neat job of keeping the viewer’s interest piqued because of his format of narration – the spread of the epidemic is mapped on a day-by-day basis – so the viewer is looking forward to the conclusion.
Moreover, the overriding feeling that the audience gets, minutes into the film, is of paranoia about an airborne virus. Even an innocuous cough in the auditorium will sure be treated with disdain. The fact that, in spite of the docu-drama style of narration, the film affects the audience is such a manner is a positive point. However, beyond this there is very little that the movie offers, except, of course, based on the fact if you can digest lengthy footage of people talking in scientific jargon, handling medical equipment and so on and so forth.
There are a few moments where the determined human spirit is show to be winning over the virus, but they have been depicted so matter-of-factly, that they do not have much emotional impact. Among other negatives, the sub-plot of the blogger (Jude Law), although interesting, goes nowhere. And other than hinting at the origin of the virus, the climax also fails in offering a cohesive conclusion. All in all, the script, although based on a premise that can potentially appeal to all, is treated in such a style that it will appeal only to a section of the city-based audiences in India.
Contagion Review – Star Performances
Steven Soderbergh has put together a stellar star cast, in spite of the fact that most of the actors have only a couple of good scenes to enact. Matt Damon does a fine job as the only person who is immune to the virus. Gwyneth Paltrow does well and although her character dies right at the beginning of the film, it makes a reappearance in a crucial scene. Laurence Fishburne delivers a masterful performance as Dr. Cheever. Kate Winslet is wonderful. Jude Law lives his character. Marion Cotillard shines. Jennifer Ehle stands out for her realistic performance. Others support well.
Contagion Review – Direction & Music
Steven Soderbergh’s direction is good as he extracts very good performances from his actors and his crew. Steven Soderbergh’s cinematography (under a pseudonym) is good in capturing the various sights of Hong Kong, Macau, Chicago, Atlanta, San Francisco, Abu Dhabi, London and Geneva. Cliff Martinez’ pulsating background score is the soul of the film. Had it not been for the background score, the film would have seemed even longer than its runtime of some 100-odd minutes. Editing, by Stephen Mirrione, could have been sharper.
Contagion Review – Verdict
On the whole, Contagion is a different take on a global epidemic that will be appreciated by the city-based discerning Indian audience. But that’s not saying too much.