89 of 111 people found the following review helpful
Frightening, realistic, but not a film you can wrap your arms around,
This review is from: Contagion [Blu-ray] (Blu-ray)
CONTAGION, directed by Steven Soderbergh, is an intensely frightening look at what really could happen should a new and unidentified virus begin to spread globally. Unfortunately, it's not a very successful film. What makes it work is its documentary-style script, which takes viewers through the spread of the virus, the reaction of both governments and everyday people, and the fear that ends up possessing the world. What makes it unsuccessful is actually the same thing - the documentary style of the film makes it almost impossible to become emotionally connected to any of the characters, most of which are played by people we know and want to care about. Because Soderbergh keeps us so detached from his characters, CONTAGION never quite jells as a truly gripping thriller.
Gwyneth Paltrow plays Beth Emhof, whose business trip to Hong Kong ends up infecting her (and a lot of other people) with a mysterious and deadly virus. Her husband Mitch (Matt Damon), back home in Minneapolis, is inexplicably immune to the disease, and his horror at what happens to his wife and young step-son is palpable and gut-wrenching. Unfortunately, we see so little of Mitch (and even less of Beth) that it's hard to stay connected. Kate Winslet plays CDC doctor Erin Mears, and for a while we get caught up in her race to unravel the mysteries of this terrible virus. But the film jumps so methodically from Dr. Mears to her boss, Dr. Ellis Cheever (Laurence Fishburne), to World Health Organization investigator Dr. Leonora Orantes (Marion Cotillard) - and it's hard to keep up, much less get invested in these characters. On top of that, there's a very involved sub-plot about a self-serving Internet journalist (Jude Law) who mouths off about unsavory political connections between the CDC/WHO and the pharmaceutical companies, while he's trying to push a homeopathic remedy that could make him a multi-millionaire. There's also a kidnapping plot, lots of scenes of people gone amok, and a very quick resolution to the virus that is neither comprehensible nor particularly satisfying.
Parts of CONTAGION are downright mesmerizing, and there's no doubt Soderbergh knows how to push the panic buttons of moviegoers already worried about H1N1, AIDS, and the latest strain of flu. I just wanted to feel more of a connection to Damon's Mitch, or Winslet's Erin Mears, or Fishburne's Cheever, or Cotillard's Leonora. Soderbergh ends CONTAGION with the kind of lack of closure that will either infuriate its audience or confirm the ultimate reality of its subject matter. Don't expect to find out what happens to everyone . . . or anyone, for that matter. Then again, maybe Soderbergh did us all a favor by keeping us distanced from his characters and not allowing us to actually wrap our proverbial arms around them. It's easier to forget about them that way. And this is definitely a film you won't want to keep thinking about in the wee hours of the morning.
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Showing 1-10 of 26 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Dec 18, 2011 11:28:22 PM PST
Sinead Twain says:
I completely agree. They could have done so much more with the material. No character depth at all.
In reply to an earlier post on Dec 20, 2011 7:16:39 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Dec 20, 2011 7:17:49 AM PST
Jonathan Cardwell says:
Thanks. Glad I stumbled upon this review. Read the first two sentences and was like "dannit! There goes another one...."... Ticks me off they keep screwing up would-be great movies. But I suppose 28 DAYS LATER already covered this territory.....I still need to rent that film so I can see the beginning, middle AND end all unified...I would remain satisfied with having turned it off 20 minutes into it had I not stumbled upon the LAST 20 minutes (or so) on SyFy or some cable station, not once ,but TWICE(!!).
Posted on Jan 2, 2012 11:52:02 AM PST
I don't see how the documentary style prevents any emotional connection. I cared about Matt Damon's character and family, among many others. It's more terrifying than most horror films.
In reply to an earlier post on Jan 2, 2012 12:14:09 PM PST
I think Matt Damon's character is the easiest to relate to -- at least we get to meet his family, and I did relate to the terror he must have felt with everything in his life suddenly falling apart.
Overall, I just felt the film distanced us from what was happening. For example, I wanted to feel more when Kate Winslet's character gets sick -- I knew she was going to die, and she was going to die there in that anonymous location without family or friends. But the film just keep jumping from one character to another (in reportorial fashion), and nothing more was said about Winslet. It was an odd way to make a film.
But there's a lot to like about the film -- I wouldn't suggest anyone not see it. And yes, it was very terrifying.
In reply to an earlier post on Jan 2, 2012 12:41:13 PM PST
Kate Winslet becoming among the numberless sick and dying was all the more tragic after her being so brave and strong on the front lines of the epidemic. She became yet another casualty, but I think this helped to further the terror and realism. This virus does not discriminate among star characters.
It's interesting how we disagree in our conclusions, and your opinions are certainly valid; but could we perhaps agree that my opinions are exceptionally valid?
In reply to an earlier post on Jan 3, 2012 4:41:49 AM PST
Of course your opinions are valid! I know many people who love this film, and maybe because of the very things that kept me from being fully engaged. And yes, I can see how Winslet's death reinforced the horror of the virus. It just left me feeling empty (but I will admit that may have been the point!).
In reply to an earlier post on Jan 3, 2012 6:32:07 AM PST
Jonathan Cardwell says:
No, Crawford wanted you to tell him/her that his/her opinion is EXCEPTIONALLY valid!
In reply to an earlier post on Jan 14, 2012 2:13:11 PM PST
C. Stoneham says:
"but could we perhaps agree that my opinions are exceptionally valid?"
Wow. Really? At no point did kacunnin suggest yours weren't, but you still felt the need to fish for validation in an "exceptional" manner. Bad form. Your opinions are valid, of course, but in comparison to kacunnin's helpful, insightful review, I absolutely would not label them "exceptional" in any form.
In reply to an earlier post on Jan 15, 2012 1:22:56 PM PST
[Deleted by the author on Jan 16, 2012 6:45:06 PM PST]