Sunday, October 30, 2011


Contagion had every thing going for it. A deadly mutating virus that could out-horror any horror film. And a dramatic cast to die for: Matt Damon, Kate Winslet, Jude Law, Gwyneth Paltrow, Lawrence Fishburne, and a cast of thousands. Mostly dying thousands.

We first learn there's a disease running rampant when Gwyneth Paltrow's character gets sick, infects a few hundreds of people, and dies. Don't get to learn her name: she's not on scene very long.

We follow administrators at the U.S. Center for Disease Control (CDC) as they try to trace contact, identify the virus, then try to fight the disease in a administrative system that demands at least several months of trials, etc.

It's a smart thriller, but the denouement is really too horrible to contemplate for those of us who don't live on the other side of a stethoscope or microscope. And there's no emotional heart in the movie. Paltrow could be that person, but she's gone too quickly. Matt Damon has very little to do with the plot at all -- he's just an ordinary citizen who watches his wife die suddenly, and tries to protect his family from a disease that is spreading much too quickly. In many ways, Fishburne is that heart, but we don't get but a quick glimpse into his personal life. After all, it's hard to fall in like with an administrator.

There is, in the end, just too much going on, too many frustrating red herrings (like Jude Law's character), and the frightening realization that, in the end, societal health structure and our own fears won't lend much of a hand to solve this mystery.

Thumb's down.


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