Reviewed on 2011 September 12
There were some weak points in Contagion and some faults in the script, and in general I think Matt Damon is kind of a doofus, but I can get past that. It was a well-acted and at times really unsettling movie, and I liked how Stephen Soderbergh followed the different storylines (even if he did let one kind of float off into ether).
This starts with day two, with a woman flying home from an otherwise successful business venture in Hong Kong with an extra souvenir. Beth Emhoff (Gwyneth Paltrow) is on the phone in an airport bar, a little tired and under the weather, but excited. She’s had a successful trip and is nursing what seems to be a dry cough as she ruffles through a dish of peanuts on the bar (and our skin crawls). She initially thinks it’s just jet lag but she’s very, vey wrong.
Thanks to the global age, everybody on that plane could be exposed to Beth’s little parting gift, setting off world-wide alarm bells to the CDC and other assorted -ologists and -ists, who all struggle to contain this thing. People are dropping like flies, society is starting to unravel, and this bug is burning across the globe pretty quickly. Human nature being what it is, it’s going to be hard preventing the spread of this nightmare until they can find a cure for it.
In scope, this kind of reminded me of one of those star-laden ’70s disaster flicks, only more frightening. What Soderbergh did for drugs in Traffic, he does for cooties here, and I liked the realistic little touches. We all know that one guy who drags himself to work when he sounds like his lungs are about to shred, or knuckle-draggers that apparently haven’t figured out that they have opposable thumbs, let alone how to cover their mouths when they cough. There’s enough of that kind of thing in here to make sure this thing burns scarily and realistically along for the short run time. I thought Laurence Fishburne was perfect as Dr. Ellis Cheever, the man who wanted to get past the inter-departmental rivalries and Noble-glomming and just kill this thing.
Three chocolate morsels. Just don’t let anyone else unwrap them for you.