Catching up on 2011: Contagion

This begins a series of reviews for films I wanted to catch in the cinema during 2011, but unfortunately managed to miss. First up is Steven Soderbergh’s pandemic thriller ‘Contagion’.

MFR Rating: ★ ★

Contagion is a film with an interesting concept given the recent scares concerning bird and swine flu by begging the question: what would have happened if such a nightmare scenario had actually occurred? As far as decent cinema is concerned, the outcome feels rather tedious.

The film features an ensemble cast of big name stars, notably Matt Damon, Laurence Fishburne, Gwyneth Paltrow, Jude Law, Kate Winslet and Bryan Cranston among others. Maybe part of the film’s problem is it’s all a bit all over the place, without any coherent emotional thread running through it. Unlike its fellow 2011 pandemic thriller Perfect Sense, Contagion might be aiming to depict a greater sense of realism but unfortunately it’s let down by feeling incredibly sanitized, lacking in any depth beyond a rather cold surface. Matt Damon loses his wife and young son to the virus at the start of the movie, but he is more concerned with what the virus is than his awful loss. The writers have an agenda concerning a specific plotline and they refuse to let good characters get in the way of it, disengaging the audience.

Along with its pandemical plot, the film is partly about not trusting bloggers who are depicted as having more opinion than sense, a caution readers of MFR would be wise to adhere to. Jude Law plays a blogger who blindly leads his many readers medically astray and there’s certainly a heavy subtext revolving around the dangerous spread of power into the webosphere. Even if bloggers are bad guys, I at least like to think this blog has more consistency than Jude Law’s all-over-the-place Aussie accent, which starts out badly and gets worse as the film progresses. The character of the blogger really is a mess and by the end of the film you do wonder what exactly the point of that subplot really is?

It’s a film that’s far from awful but also one you know won’t stick with you despite it’s extremely heavy subject matter and that’s rather a pity. I thought it would be a movie that would at least create some sense of paranoia, but it’s all done in a way that feels too clinical to become engaging and create any lasting effect.

Review By David Rank


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