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Sunday, September 11, 2011


With an all-star cast filled with Oscar winners and nominees and other great performances, the hypochondriac thriller of the year, director Steven Soderbergh's Contagion manages to shake the feathers off germaphobes everywhere even when its premise is very familiar.

Kate Winslet, Laurence Fishburne, Marion Cotillard, Jude Law, Gwyneth Paltrow and Matt Damon star as the victims of medical examiners of a mysterious epidemic that has quickly claimed the lives of thousands of people across the world. With symptoms that range from nausea, to fevers and even seizures Soderbergh follows what happens when the world is at the mercy of something they both fear and puzzle over.

Paltrow plays one of the first victims whose international business trip results in her vicious death, which sparks the series of questions of what it is, where did it come from, and how do they get rid of it. Damon plays Paltrow's remarkably grief-stricken husband whose performances clutches at the heart strings. Fishburne plays Dr. Ellis Cheever a director at the Center for Disease Control who recruits Dr. Erin Mears (Winslet) to investigate and contain the disease. Cotillard is Leonora Orantes, sent in by the World Health Organization to do the same thing. While the health authorities hasten their studies and investigations, Soderbergh shows the fatal ripple effect of the disease rapidly spreading (through everything from doorknobs to glasses and hand shakes) and causes both a fury and panic in each citizen. Meanwhile Law's character, journalist Alan Krumwiede, cooks up even more of a mass hysteria in the crowd with his myriad of conspiracy theories and CDC accusations.

With all the various elements that swept the story along, it was hard to get attached to any one character. Damon's portrayal is quite impressive but disappears throughout much of the movie. His story adds more heart to an otherwise drab medical thriller heightened by, for the most part, well-written characters in a movie that bears very close resemblance to 1995's Outbreak. In addition, the movie doesn't seem to have much of an endpoint. However its middle act is quite impressive as it builds a sense of uneasiness and tension in the audience ( further emphasized by a ticking time count for each scene) with its taut execution of the drama that unfolds. Law's performance can also be seen as a stand-out as it really serves as a propeller for rash emotions that often go through the minds of those in a unknown crisis. Winslet and Cotillard's performances could have been more impressive if their characters were a little more fleshed out. You feel like there's something missing from each of their stories, even though they're so pivotal to the politics of what's going on. Fishburne's Cheever is an example of a good sketch of a character in the same position, as is Jennifer Ehle who plays the brilliant Dr. Ally Hextall from Cheever's office.

While Contagion succeeds in teasing (however not maintaining) those emotions in its audience, it fails to bring the story full circle. It's also lacking A bit of a mixed bag at times, its overall well developed character sketches and good performances will certainly keep the attention of moviegoers and no doubt increase DVD sales (as well as, perhaps, sales of Purell).

Rating: B+


A L J Augustine said...

Completely agree with you on this one. I saw it in theaters yesterday and while everyone asked me "what was it like?" all I could say was "good." There weren't many moments to really stand out to me, but the overall look at the birth of a disease to the mass hysteria that it causes was very interesting to watch unfold from multiple vantage points. I was happy that for once, something didn't start in NYC!

Sammy V said...

I'm intrigued, but your review makes me think I could wait for it's DVD release.

Daniel said...

Think we are right in tune about our thoughts on this film. It's solid but never quite gripping.

Dan O. said...

Contagion becomes a battle between what it is and what it could have been. It satisfies just enough to warrant its existence while frustrating one with its potential. Nice review Candice. Check out my review when you get a chance!

Brittani Burnham said...

I want to see this. I'm curious to see how they made Minneapolis look, since they apparently filmed there.

Raghav said...

I'm really curious about this one. Great cast. I liked Outbreak when it came out and I feel that this might be what The Happening was meant to be. Thanks

Wendy Eustache said...

I couldn't watch this because then I would be overly paranoid about catching something, but the cast is top of the line though.

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