Grae Drake
Contagion Review

Grae's Rating:

3.5

Buy stock in surgical masks.

I hope you're not actually touching your mouse with your bare hand right now. After opening the bathroom door 14 minutes ago? And 3 days after weaving baskets with orphans in that alleyway? Your philanthropy will not save you from the millions of germs thriving on every surface you're coming into contact with now. And according to this movie, those germs are going to kill you. But like the movie, if you live through the initial madness, the only thing you might die of is boredom.

Contagion seems like a documentary set to the The Social Network soundtrack. In it, a super-deadly virus breaks out, and the poor humans scurry about trying to get a leg up on Mother Nature, just like they do when this happens in real life. Of course, scientists and the military are slower than molasses to respond in the scheme of things, because viruses are nature's most effective population assassin. But that doesn't mean they don't try, working desperately to save lives while politics, espionage, disobeyed orders, emotions, and Jude Law with horrible dental work get in the way.

Watching this film is as uncomfortable as expected, so if you have even the slightest tendency towards hypochondria, you should stay far away. Our species does a great job of puffing up its collective confidence with "science," but in the end, all it takes is Gwyneth Paltrow hanging out at a Hong Kong casino to bring us all down. Director Steven Soderbergh does a fantastic job of ramping up tension in the first half of the film--while watching you become acutely aware of everyone's casual contact with their mouth, nose, or eyes. Even insert shots of hands touching doorjambs made everyone around me cringe. He manages to make an invisible villain more threatening than Jason and Freddy combined.

Compared to other virus movies, Contagion casts a much wider net, including a large cast and several stories. In the end, this is what dampened my enthusiasm, because I never really got to know anyone enough to get emotionally invested. It's sort of like Love Actually if you replace all the British accents with chapped lips and seizures. And as we are forced to follow the various storylines the movie slows down so much that it loses its footing. Is it a political message, about health care, or just an opportunity for Matt Damon to lock his movie daughter in the house? Oh, and for all you Marion Cotillard fans out there--she appears in the movie briefly, sure, but apparently her entire subplot was cut. She shows up in what appears to be an afterthought of a wrap-up scene but that's it. Ho-hum.

This movie seems useful as a crystal ball look into what will happen when the planet decides to rebel against us. There's really nothing you can do to adequately prepare, except perhaps rent Outbreak to watch while you're quarantined in your house.

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