Thursday, April 14, 2011


By D.E.Levine

Contagion is a highly controlled film about a frightening out-of-control pandemic event.

Beth Emhoff, in Hong Kong on business, has a delicious dinner at a prestigious restaurant and then during a layover in Chicago, sleeps with an old boyfriend. Beth returns home to her husband Mitch (Matt Damon) in Minneapolis, becomes ill suddenly, and dies.

However,while in Hong Kong, Beth came into contact with business associates, restaurant patrons and staff, other guests at her hotel and in a casino, and of course on the plane. Naturally, since she doesn't know she's contagious and hasn't experienced any symptoms yet, she infects everyone with whom she comes into contact.

Beth's death is only the beginning. A flu-like epidemic spreads with unbelievable rapidity although we don't learn how Beth became infected until the end of the film.

As the plague spreads rapidly, so does the drama and tension. The Deputy Director of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Dr. Ellis Cheever (Laurence Fishburne), takes charge of tracking and fighting the spread of the disease.

Erin Mears (Kate Winslet), a medical intelligence specialist, is sent to the Minneapolis hot spot to uncover the cause while back in a CDC lab Dr. Ally Hextall (Jennifer Ehle) struggles to isolate the virus and develop a serum/antidote.

Audiences can relate to the shock and panic since the country and world lived through the HIV, Ebola and swine-flu epidemics. We see that as panic spreads, civil society disappears and riots and looting take place.

Under Steven Soderbergh's direction and Stephen Mirrione's editing, things filmed physical conviction but without exaggeration.

There's a wild card in all of this, a Julian Assange type blogger named Alan Krumwiede (Jude Law) who insists that the government is ignoring a homeopathic cure colluding with a large pharmaceutical company on a pseudo drug. As Krumwiede blogs about his distrust he contributes to spreading the panic and unrest, which can almost be categorized as part of the illness.

There are some other interesting characters such as a doctor working for the World Health Organization (Marion Cotillard) and a renegade epidemiologist (Elliot Gould), but generally, the main characters and the world's "saviors" are government employees.

There is obviously a message in this post 911 anniversary film regarding that the people entrusted with the ability and know how to solve the problem are all government scientists that rely on facts, not religious beliefs.