Monday 31 October 2011

Today's Review: Contagion

Yes, it's time for another disaster movie. But hey, at least this one's not about zombies. In fact, it's a whole different kind of movie.

Contagion has an ensemble cast, and a pretty good one too. Gwyneth Paltrow, Kate Winslet, Laurence Fishburne, Matt Damon, Jude Law and Marion Cotillard all play characters dealing with the outbreak of a new form of disease, one that spreads easily and kills within days. Damon plays the husband of one of the first infected, who is played by Paltrow. He is pretty much the only regular citizen mainly featured in this movie, as the other characters are employees of various health centres who are tasked with researching and preventing the disease.

Yes, in a typical disaster movie you'd have several sweeping shots of ravaged streets, people trying to escape the impending disaster, a real Hollywood sense of urgency. But Contagion treats the subject in an extremely different way. The scenes of citizens panicking and even having the disease are minimal, and most of the movie deal with what happens behind the scenes, from the initial stages of identifying clusters of infection, to obtaining a sample and working to control mass panic while attempting to develop a vaccine. It may sound boring compared to an action filled thriller, and there are certainly no zombies, but the story really pulls you in. At times it does get a little complicated, and almost feels like watching a documentary about how an epidemic is dealt with, but the result is a completely unique take on the genre.

Everyone in this movie plays their roles extremely well. Damon particularly stands out as the surviving husband attempting to prevent the rest of his family getting infected. Jude Law plays an increasingly slimy blogger who is attempting to uncover the "truth" behind the infection and cure, and often oozes with charm. The health workers played by the others are believably frantic in dealing with the virus and their loved ones, which helps to pull you in and make you pay attention to what's going on in the story. Without some well played parts the scientific elements of the movie would have fallen quite flat.

Contagion may be another thriller about disease, but it's very intelligent and presents a unique viewpoint behind outbreaks. What happened in the labs in George A. Romero's world? We may not know for sure, but Contagion gives us a fair idea, and proves that it could sometimes be as interesting as what's happening outside.

My rating: 4/5

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