Rated PG-13 for disturbing content and some language
Contagion was a chilling and disturbing look at what happens to the world when an outbreak of an unknown virus threatens to destroy everything.
A virus has sprung up in various places around the world. No one knows where it came from or, more importantly, how to stop it. Left unchecked, billions of people could die. But first they need to find out where it started, and then they need to figure out how to stop it and in the meantime, the world falls into chaos.
I think what sets Contagion apart from making this a made-for-TV movie is the stellar cast. Matt Damon, Gwyneth Paltrow, Jude Law, Marion Cotillard, Laurence Fishburne, Kate Winslet, Bryan Cranston headline with Steven Soderbergh directing. If this were a bunch of nobodies, I'm not sure anyone would care about the film. But I suppose that's what makes this a Hollywood production. The movie on the whole was good, until it got to the last 15-20 minutes, and then it felt like it dragged. The movie isn't so much about the virus, but about how people react to the virus. You have the mother who is having an affair and could be Patient One - the person who affects everyone else in the world. You have her husband, immune from the disease but still out to protect his daughter the best way he can. You have members of the Centers for Disease Control who have to stay on top of the story and warn people, but at the same time try not to cause a panic. And you have the rest of the world, not knowing what is the truth and what is a lie with one blogger trying to convince people this is nothing but a money-making ploy. It was fascinating looking inside the minds of all these people and seeing how they cope with what is happening around them. But at the same time you're distracted by the fact that (spoiler alert) it's Gwyenth Paltrow foaming at the mouth and getting her head sliced open. Or that it's Matt Damon setting up a fake prom for his daughter since she can't leave the house. Or that it's Kate Winslet running all over the country to warn people about the disease and how to fight it, before succumbing to it herself. So having massive stars in the film both helps and hurts the final product.
Because there are so many story lines, the movie moves along at a pretty good pace most of the time. It was only when we got to the end of the movie, and a vaccine had been created, that the movie really started to slow down. It felt like there were half a dozen false endings and the movie just keep on going. I think they managed to wrap up everyone's story lines, even if a couple of them were a bit strange. For instance Marion Cotillard's character worked for the World Health Organization and was sent to where they thought the disease started. She ends up being kidnapped by the people she's working with because they figure if they have her, once a vaccine is created they can then be the first to get it. So a few months later when the vaccine is created, they trade her for the vaccine and she's let go. Only then does she find out that they were giving a placebo, so she runs right back to them. The thing is, between when she's kidnapped and when she's released, we don't see so the whole idea of Stockholm Syndrome never comes up. It felt a little strange. I think one extra scene would have helped. Matt Damon's character is shown basically barricading himself and his daughter in their house, with only one run made for food, which they abandon quickly. He also breaks into other people's houses looking for food, but we never see him find any. He's locked in there for months - wouldn't they have run out of food? And with all those people getting sick, and people turning into looters, how is it the power stayed on the entire time? For a movie that felt fairly realistic, there were these little things that didn't feel real at all. It was a high-gloss Hollywood realism I suppose.
THE BOTTOM LINE
So overall I liked Contagion, but a lot of it had to do with the cast. The story was decent but it felt like it went on a little too long. It feels like more of a movie that's rentable, not one that needs to be seen in theaters.