Contagion * * * 1/2

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Director: Steven Soderbergh.
Screenplay: Scott Z. Burns.
Starring: Matt Damon, Kate Winslet, Marion Cotillard, Jude Law, Laurence Fishburne, Gwyneth Paltrow, Bryan Cranston, John Hawkes, Elliott Gould, Jennifer Ehle, Larry Clarke.

Director Steven Soderbergh is no stranger to switching a theme or two. If you look through the films he has delivered over the years – “Sex, Lies and Videotape”, “Solaris”, “Erin Brockovich”, “Traffic”, “Out of Sight” and “Che” to name a few – you’ll find it difficult to pigeonhole him to any particular genre. This is yet another change of direction from him.

As an unknown and deadly virus spreads across the world, a man (Matt Damon) struggles to cope with it’s tragic impact on his family and the death of his wife (Gwyneth Paltrow), while a World Health Organisation doctor (Marion Cotillard) seeks to find its source and the Centers For Disease Control And Prevention (Laurence Fishburne and Kate Winslet) fight to contain the epidemic and make a vaccine. Meanwhile, a blogger (Jude Law) claims he knows the true cure…

Surprisingly, there are very few of these types of films anymore. The premise is always a winner as it can genuinely strike fear into people but for one reason or another they never seem to reach the screen as much as they should. In 1995 director Wolfgang Petersen released the similarly themed “Outbreak” that dealt with an epidemic of deadly proportions. That film had a Gung-ho approach but the cruciality it had is exactly what this film lacks. Where Soderbergh falters is trying to squeeze in too much detail and not enough drama. His detail is impressively meticulous though which adds a frightening sense of realism but there’s also a feeling of distance from the characters. Despite this, it strangely still manages to hold your attention and even on occasion, your breath. There is some fine acting on show from a first class ensemble – particularly Damon – but with all that’s going on, the investment in the characters just isn’t there, leaving the impressive cast slightly wasted. The premise is a gripping one though and it’s horror in it’s most frightening and realistic form.

A bold attempt by Soderbergh and as a commentary on the fragility of our society it’s a winner, but as entertainment it’s lacks a sense of urgency.

Mark Walker

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2 Responses to “Contagion * * * 1/2”

  1. Definitely agree with you on Soderbergh’s artful detours from the pigeon coop – quite a variety looking back over his career. I think though he’d benefit from sharing the reigns a little bit, collaborate more, let someone else shoot the next movie, edit the thing, bring in some new flavors that might just elevate him to former glory or make these departures more somehow, greater impact.

    Contagion is no Erin Brokovich any more than it is Traffic, Sex-Lies or anything he’s done with Clooney – and maybe that’s a good thing career wise, but just not here, not for me – what you said.

    Ha! “the cruciality ” – that’s a great line. I couldn’t agree more. I like your brevity, cutting quick to the bone, the filet of reviews I’ve read about this film.

    Like

    • Thanks Rory. Yeah, I like get my point across quickly. I agree though, Soderbergh is churning out just a little too much these days, to the point where it’s become quantity not quality. I like to give him the benefit of the doubt sometimes but there’s no doubt that his recent stuff is lacking something. Maybe your right. Maybe he should hand the reins over a bit.

      Like

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