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Movie Review: Contagion

Paul Banas
Author Paul Banas
Submitted 16-10-2011

Be aware. This is not a movie for kids. The subject matter is very scary but for most people under 40, this is not the kind of thriller they will be expecting.

Contagion is a thriller in the Syriana tradition with plot threads coming at you from all directions. Many personalities and subplots tell an over-arching story, in this case, the spread of a killer virus the that threatens to kill one of every four people on the planet. However, there are no car chases, no surprise twists, and not many love stories going on. Most of the energy is focussed on the science of a deadly virus as well with some side detours to the societal breakdown that happens in cities quarantined for their over-exposed populations.

Dads will find themselves imagining what it would be like to be Matt Damon, the main dad character in the film. His cheating wife (Gwyneth Paltrow) is the main carrier of the disease who inadvertently brings it from Hong Kong, infecting her Chicago lover, while on the way home to her husband in Minneapolis. She quickly dies off, leaving Matt Damon, genetically immune to the virus, to take care of and protect his teenage daughter. As the Day 5, Day 10 and Day 181 tick by, they await the discovery of a vaccine that will save the world.

While real scientists (the CDC is the big hero here) go about trying to save mankind, Jude Law plays an internet journalist cashing in on his early discovery of the virus and hyping a wonder cure. Laurence Fishburne is excellent as a key administrator of the CDC. Viewers will be forgiven for thinking he is a second dad represented in the movie. He spends a fair amount of time on the phone with beautiful Sanaa Lathan who I thought was young enough to be his daughter.

Contagion also stars Marion Cotillard, Kate Winslett, Sanjay Gupta, and Elliot Gould.

Reading the Yahoo and IMDB reviews, it’s clear that most people were very disappointed with this movie. It is clearly not a zombie thriller in the 28 Days genre. But as an intelligent depiction of how things unwind, I found it to be a very scary, and likely under-played version of the horror of this type of epidemic. Some kids might be traumatized by the subject matter, since Contagion does portray a world full of random events that could bring on destruction at any moment. However, most kids will simply be bored, while dads sit trembling in their seats wondering how to protect their kids from the world around us.

I found it gripping and give it an 8 out of 10.