You remember the bird flu, right? And the swine flu? Maybe you even had a flu shot. During the 2009 flu pandemic people died left and right with a total of 14,286 deaths. But the pandemic eventually passed and everyone with Gilead Sciences stock rejoiced as the huge Tamiflu stockpiles left over from previous flu pandemics could finally be used for something.
That we got away with only fourteen thousand dead was a combination of skill and luck. At some point a flu will come that will have a much greater impact on us that the swine flu back in 2009. It has happened before and it will happen again. In Steven Soderbergh’s “Contagion” it happens again.
We follow the pandemic through all its phases, from first contact on Day 1 to a vaccine is eventually developed and distributed. We do this through the eyes of many different people, all who are affected by the pandemic in one way or another. This is nothing new, but Soderbergh’s twist is that very few of the stories are interwoven on any other level than that they are related to the pandemic: Someone doesn’t meet someone else who change their life forever. Some of the people we meet actually go ahead and die instead, which is also very un-Hollywood and certainly very un-American.
The cast of Contagion is great, with a lot of familiar faces who all do an excellent job. Matt Damon, Laurence Fishburne, Jude Law, Gwyneth Paltrow and Kate Winslet all come together to make the movie believable fiction. The film only lasts for about an hour and forty minutes and while it’s good to watch a movie that doesn’t drag things out for ever, I can’t help but feel that the movie should have dived even deeper down into the science of the virus itself, the massive challenge it is to find a vaccine and the immense task it can be to keep a desperate population at bay.
I don’t think the solution would have been to extend the movie. My impression is that we simply follow too many people and that the stories thus get too short. A little more depth had been great, shaving off a story or two might have accomplished that.
But apart from this, Contagion is a great movie that blends together everything that a great movie should have. Excellent photography, a killer soundtrack, a (somewhat) original script and a top-notch cast. Whoever said Kate Winslet can’t act has to see this movie.
I’m trying something new in this entry. Spoilers that won’t actually spoil anything if you haven’t seen the movie! Some parts of the movie naturally influenced my impression of it, but I can’t tell you about because it could potentially spoil the experience for you. But you might have seen Contagion already, not running that risk. To read the spoiler, simply hover over the black area below.
Spoiler: One logical flaw really bugs me. I’m surprised that they didn’t ask for Beth Emhoff’s (Gwyneth Paltrow) belonging and check her camera. Revealing that she shook hands with the chef in the Macau casino probably would have saved them a lot of time in finding the source and developing the vaccine.