Contagion (2011)

An apocalypse with no zombies. LAME!

Contagion follows the fast progress of a airborne virus that is lethal and kills within days. As the fast-moving epidemic grows larger, the worldwide medical community runs and races to find a cure and control the panic that spreads almost faster than the virus itself.

It’s been awhile since director Steven Soderbergh has gone back to the scale of Traffic, and to be honest, it’s kind of a good thing since he does get a little out-of-hand sometimes.

Soderbergh fully explores what would happen if a deadly virus were to hit the planet in today’s society and just how the government, scientists, people, and every single person known to man would react. I just wonder how the media would actually handle this virus and what they would do to spark it up and gain attention. This film shows that as well as the well the panic that would travel throughout the world, and just what everybody would do if they almost couldn’t touch anything.

However, the story never really goes anywhere and instead of actually being immersed in all of these characters, I never felt moved by this story at all. What the problem that Soderbergh usually has with many of his films is that he tells a story, and instead of allowing us to feel something for what’s going on, we just feel like we’re along for the ride with Soderbergh. And if I was in for a ride like this, I wanted to go on a new one.

There were moments were I felt that sort of paranoia and feel that the film was striking for so very very much but in the end, nothing here really kept me involved with this story other than the fact that everyone seems to be dying, and I couldn’t really care that much. Soderbergh has this film go on at a slow-pace, which isn’t really bothersome to me in other films, but when you have a film that seems to just move along its pace with no actual connection or emotional feel, then I just get a little, dare I say it, bored. I can’t believe it either, but for some reason, there were times when I checked the time just to see how much longer of the virus we had left.

Though I must say, when the story didn’t keep me going, I still felt a bit affected by the technical aspect of this whole film. Soderbergh shows that even though he may not be able to get this story in your hearts, he will get it in your mind with some really great visuals and camera-tricks that actually made just little scenes of a door-knob or a fork so terrifying and showing how by touching each item with your hands, you can spread the virus more and more. The score that was done by Cliff Martinez actually adds an under-lining tension to a lot of the scenes where people are just walking around and gets you in this full feel of just fear of everything around you.

The ensemble is also one of the best that Soderbergh has shown as of late, and even though they don’t do an amazingly perfect job, their altogether pretty solid. Matt Damon is good as the loving father, Mitch, who plays that everyday man put into a radical situation and gets some really good scenes going here; Laurence Fishburne probably does his performance in the past couple of years as Dr. Cheever, a guy who has so much on his plate but still seems to somehow have it all together and can still do his best to save others he wants to, even as manipulated as he is by the government; and Jude Law is probably the best out of the whole cast as a know-it-all blogger that is all about spreading the real truth, while all of these government officials keep the truth away to keep getting more and more money. His story was the best and I think I actually connected with it more now that I’m becoming that little rebellious teenage pissant nobody wants to deal with.

The ladies here are also good but don’t show up as much as the dudes. Marion Cotillard‘s performance as Dr. Orantes is good but her character is in the film about every 30 minutes, and when her time-limit is up, we find out nothing that has happened to her. Kate Winslet is really good as Dr. Erin Mears, the CDC’s “detective”, and brings a lot of emotional weight to her character for us to actually care about her, even though her character’s motives aren’t clear; and Gwyneth Paltrow is here for about 10 minutes and basically is just there to look sick and have foam pop on out of her mouth. I still don’t know why her character had to begin the film with her having any sex and therefore cheating on her husband. The rest of the cast has some notable faces such as John Hawkes, Bryan Cranston, Jennifer Ehle, Elliott Gould, and a random Demetri Martin.

Consensus: Contagion has an impressive ensemble and makes you feel as if you are in a world of fear and panic during this epidemic, but you never actually feel totally involved with this story, and more of just a watcher of Soderbergh’s annoying way of showing how much cool science stuff he knows.



  1. I have to say, I am really looking forward to this. The 90’s thriller Outbreak really pushed the concept of humanity being wiped out by a virus/disease into the mainstream, and I think in today’s hyper-sensitive society, another film about a similar thing might make us pause and think for a moment. Great review, by the way, Dan, as usual. I’m so looking forward to this….

    • Thanks Rodney! It’s good but there’s no real impact on you when it’s over, however, it’s good if you really want a film that shows what happens when an outbreak hits the whole planet.

  2. It’s so annoying how we have to wait longer for films to come out in the UK :/ lol.. Great review! I’m looking forward to seeing this as it seems a bit different to the rest of the virus – end of the human race films lol.

  3. You and I gave it the same score my friend! I liked the film too and agree with the fact that the characters weren’t given as much development as I would’ve hoped. But I would say that the virus was the biggest character of them all and the travels, the story, the interactions of it was the focus and biggest success of the film.

    Great review.

    I also noted how sad I was that Marion Cotillard wasn’t in it as much as she should’ve been.

  4. Great review. It seems we have a lot of the same thoughts on this film (although I did not like it as much as you). It is also interesting to see that you liked Jude Law the best. His role is perfectly suited for his strengths and he makes the most of it. I probably prefer Winslet’s performance to his but it is easy to see why he was your favorite.

  5. I think this film hit a bit closer to home than others might think. I thought it was basically fresh because it evoked a world-wide contagion without zombies. It kills and we must observe the actual world response. I thought it was interesting and I think it was the insidious due to its somewhat reserved nature. It was quiet chaos. I think the acting was also a bit better here than commented above, but agree that law was the stand out. I give Damon and Fishburne strong credit and include Winslet in that mix as well. I have to give it to our wonderful director, however: it takes real b@lls to kill off a star in the first five minutes.

    • It does take some real balls, but it also takes some real balls to go out and make an intriguing story with characters we care about, which Soderbergh did not do here.

  6. This agrees with most things I’ve been hearing about it. Usually dislike disease-spread movies (unless it’s with zombies), but I might still go see this with the director and its cast.

  7. Yea from the trailer, I got that feeling that it would be a bit distant and cold, revolving around a lot of people rather than focusing on the plight of a few characters. I will wait for the DVD.

  8. I couldn’t agree more with your insightful review. I regret spending $14.50 to see this movie in theatre when I could have waited to rent it from a DVD kiosk for $1.99 but nonetheless it wasn’t a bad movie as you’ve said, it had a few good parts, but definitely just a one-time rental.

  9. I think he focused less on the characters as a way of making the audience think about the more important issue: how humans act during these kinds of crises. If you’re solely focused on a few characters that impact is lost.

    • The characters weren’t there for the total focus but I didn’t really feel anything when this story was going on too, so I don’t know Fitz! I just think it could have been way better.

  10. I liked it a lot more than you Dan.

    I think the star of the show is the virus, MEV-1. If you buy into the fact that this could happen? Its going to frighten you (not to the point of being actually scared, but…) and then the story sucks you in.

    I thought it was a (95%) realistic portrayal of a NIGHTMARE scenario. Directed with flair. I thought it was excellent.

  11. I had a feeling that this could actually happen but for some reason it just didn’t glue me in as much as I was expecting it too. Thanks though Dan! Glad you liked it brah!

  12. Great Review. I liked the technical aspects that you mentioned about how the film spreads, but really didn’t enjoy the ending very much at all.

    P.S. I’m glad that your graffiti uses punctuation!

  13. Ah we may have some differences about this film, but you totally made it clear and I love your points especially how you were not moved. I forgot about the emotional aspect of the story although the ending of Matt Damon’s story was a nice touche for me.

    This is my first visit and I really like your blog and your way of rating.

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