The Reel Review
Gwyneth Paltrow is an American returning home to Minnesota from a business trip to Hong Kong who suddenly gets violently ill, and faster than you can say goop, dies. Those with whom she has had even the slightest casual contact also quickly die, unleashing a global pandemic and widespread panic.
The first half of director Steven Soderbergh’s viral techno-thriller maintains a quick pace, with cough-die-repeat storylines and a frenetic focus on the other epidemic – hysteria – as a panicked public gloms onto internet-fueled conspiracy theories and create food and drug shortages. (Sound familiar?) The story is refreshingly accurate, as the spooky subtitles show the alarming spread of the deadly virus.
The only puzzling sub plot surrounds Jude Law’s character, a popular conspiracy theorist/blogger who claims the virus is the creation of the government and profit-minded drug companies. His story starts off well enough, only to fizzle in the second half, which also drags compared to the film’s beginning. The ending, however, tracing how the outbreak began, is terrifyingly on point and worth the wait.
Matt Damon, Jennifer Ehle (Zero Dark Thirty, A Quiet Passion) and Kate Winslet provide the most memorable characters in this film, a grim reminder of the chaos that a global epidemic can unleash on the planet within weeks. While entertaining, Contagion is also unnerving – probably not the best choice of films if you are trying to “not panic” during our current coronavirus pandemic.
• Contagion star/patient zero Gwyneth Paltrow recently posted a pic wearing a mask on Instagram during a flight to Paris. For proper mask use, here is a link from the World Health Organization.
• Although it had ended up on the cutting room floor, Steven Soderbergh was so impressed with Jennifer Ehle’s performance in 2007’s Michael Clayton that he offered her the role of the CDC vaccine research scientist in Contagion.
• In researching her role, Kate Winslet met with members of the CDC’s Epidemic Intelligence Service (EIS) in Atlanta, to better understand the personalities of the brave folks who work on the front lines when outbreaks occur.