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USA, United Arab Emirates
Drama, Thriller, Sci-Fi
IMDB rating:
Steven Soderbergh
Monique Gabriela Curnen as Lorraine Vasquez
Stef Tovar as Dr. Arrington
Teri Campbell as ER Nurse #2
Griffin Kane as Clark Morrow
Tien You Chui as Li Fai
Teri McEvoy as School Nurse
Yoshiaki Kobayashi as Japanese Bus Man
Josie Ho as Li Fai's Sister
Jude Law as Alan Krumwiede
John Hawkes as Roger
Matt Damon as Mitch Emhoff
Gwyneth Paltrow as Beth Emhoff
Laurence Fishburne as Dr. Ellis Cheever
Storyline: Soon after her return from a business trip to Hong Kong, Beth Emhoff dies from what is a flu or some other type of infection. Her young son dies later the same day. Her husband Mitch however seems immune. Thus begins the spread of a deadly infection. For doctors and administrators at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, several days pass before anyone realizes the extent or gravity of this new infection. They must first identify the type of virus in question and then find a means of combating it, a process that will likely take several months. As the contagion spreads to millions of people worldwide, societal order begins to break down as people panic.
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Having seen a few weeks ago Side Effects I was reflecting that maybe Steven Soderbergh would not necessarily do a bad thing taking a break from directing. Well, I had not seen 'Contagion' yet, one of his previous movies. To use the terms of the story in this movie, the origin of the disease can be traced way back.

The world is in danger in Contagion as a deadly flue virus originating (where else?) in South-East Asia is spreading around the world, killing first individuals, than thousands, than millions. Governments, corporations, the World Health Organization, become all engaged in a race to find the roots of the disease, to stop its spreading and contagion, to find a cure. The problem with the film is that there are too many threads, none of them extremely interesting or surprising, some going nowhere. For example a researcher seems to have found a cure but is ordered to stop research and destroy the samples - we never learn why, last time we see him he seems to disobey the orders and then he just disappears for the rest of the film. An Internet blogger and journalist claim that cure exists and proves it on its own body, but this thread never connects with the rest of the film. If the purpose of director Soderbergh is to show chaos on screen he did succeed, but it's more film-making chaos than everything else. There were a few moments when it seemed that the film heads towards showing the impact of a catastrophic disease on the fabric of the American society, but these were also wasted in too expected scenes of army in the streets and supermarket plundering, lost and forgotten soon enough, as brave scientists discover the cure and test it on themselves to speed the solution. The script is disappointing, a collection of TV soap episodes concentrated to a few minutes each and badly interconnected.

The cast is certainly impressive. Heaving on screen in the same film Kate Winslet, Jude Law, Matt Damon, Marion Cotillard, Gwyneth Paltrow, and a few other who would alone hold a movie on their shoulders is certainly a performance for the producer and a pleasure for spectators. Fans should however be warned that some of them die young in this film, and none has the opportunity to play a role that will be remembered for a long time. Despite the gathering of talents Contagion is a confusing and chaotic film.
A more realistic addition to the pandemic genre
Watching this movie, I was surprised how many A-list actors were in it. Still, both Kate Winslet's and Gwyneth Paltrow's deaths could have been more satisfying. I always wanted to see them die in movies.

The pandemic genre has been done to death and this entry doesn't bring that much more new, except for a more realistic approach.

I must admit I didn't watch it to the end. Close to the end of the movie, they find the cure. Why, oh why, did they do that? Can't a good virus just wipe out the human race if it is only for once in one movie? So, I don't know the ending and I don't care. I'd have watched for two more hours if they had the audacity to go all the way.
Soderbergh's eye of chance
A superficial glance at the thing may reveal triffle rewards, or disproportionate to how much the viewer is tasked to process; the scope is broad, globe-trotting with the outbreak of a pandemic, the weave of the threads is thick, even thicker than Traffic, mixing chaotic views from the streets as the social fabric is being torn to shreds with increasingly distressed round-table talks in the upper echelons of the government-health organization complex, and the final resolutions are all disarmingly ambiguous. For all the hoopla, we are not sure if the vaccine has unforeseen side-effects down the road, whether or not the pharmaceutical cabal is pushing their own interests above the public's, whether or not the pandemic is safely contained and what part of the world has been laid to waste in its wake. We leave the film with very little to grasp, outside of how frail we are in the face of disaster.

So for all intents and purposes, it may seem like difficult stuff to digest, with little flavor in what is bleakly styled as journalistic coverage; but this being a Soderbergh film, the reward is all in the structure of the thing.

Soderbergh seems to have evaded serious critical consideration thus far. His main attraction to the public is some measure of the Hollywood blockbuster, except always tweaked a little to challenge beneath the dazzle. On the side, he works smaller, more personal projects that go largely unremarked. He is our current DePalma, a talented filmmaker reworking a cinematic eye from New Wave within the only system available for movie-making in America, a commercial industry, packing his essays in genre formats friendly to that industry, but even more inconspicuous than DePalma because he is far less explicit in what he references.

The reference here is a purely noir construct, reworked on the outer level to synch with contemporary anxieties about the order of things.

Usually in film noir we had some kind of private dick investigating a mysterious chain of events, or alternately an average schmuck caught up in some part of the chain (in this film we have both). Both types of character were shown to be tossed about by unforeseen forces from a higher level, from our end we registered this as a kind of fate, but which, this is what's important about noir, we came to understand over the course of the film were being powered by the protagonist himself. It was never purely the femme fatale or money that animated the accidental world, but our desire for them. From our end as viewers, the effort was to rise above the level the characters experienced as their narrative, and garner a glimpse of where the specific world emanates from and is there an author, a fate, perhaps responsible for what is beind chronicled.

So here we have one group of characters, firmly above the common man, on the level where fates are devised, looking to unpack the narrative of a situation that has newly emerged; a story about a pandemic, first encountered on a video from youtube. The film starts at Day 2. One character is specifically tasked with piecing together the chain of events leading back to where it all started. Others are investigating possible scenarios to end it.

But these efforts are gradually usurped from the accidental world below, where the mass of humans experience the chain of events as cataclysmic change beyond all control. That first character is abducted and held for ransom. Another one dies, one of hundreds in a field hospital, rendered completely anonymous inside the narrative. The freelance blogger acting as our paranoid eye in the story is brought in for charges of fraud.

Chaos ensues as the whole civilized structure is shattered to the foundation. The only thing that can make it stand is a small gesture of humanity, a selfless offer of a vaccine. And the only way there can be any progress at all, is by personal risk outside the rigid order of things.

But none of the characters inside the movie are finally any wiser about the cause. We are. Our parting shot unveils the chain of events leading up to Day 1. There was nothing, nada, pure chance. No author or fate behind the design of so much suffering.

It is an apt ending, a rare glimpse of the mechanisms that control life. But is it going to interest most viewers, I'm not sure.
A disaster movie that has an accurate medical basis
As a medical professional, I am impressed at how this movie illustrated the disease, from its incubation to its becoming a pandemic. Though fictional, the signs, symptoms, diagnosis and treatment of the disease are presented thoroughly with accurate medical and scientific basis.

Adding up to the excitement of the movie are the cinematography and the excellent performance of its all-star cast. The actors played their respective characters perfectly and with rightful control, meaning they knew when to stop and when to advance. As a result, no one in the movie undermined the other's character. Matt Damon delved perfectly in to his character's emotions and exhibited how a father would normally react to such incidence that affects his family. Gwyneth Paltrow did well as the victim. Kate Winslet's performance was quintessential as I saw her character's actions and behavior in doctors I have worked with. Lawrence Fishbourne did a good job as the assertive director. Jude Law delivered an outstanding performance as the investigative writer.

This is a movie that I would recommend as an informational reference.
solid, efficient storytelling
I can see why some people might be a bit disappointed in this movie, because it's a pretty realistic on a pandemic, without a main heroic character or even action really. It's full dialogue-driven scenes, and most of the characters aren't really fleshed out.

I was OK with that because it's able to show the different effects of a pandemic throughout the globe instead having one or two main characters. A small Chinese village near the source of the virus tries to survive. A misguided blogger ends up inciting violence . And a recently single father tries to protect his daughter. The way the story cuts between these different story lines kept me from getting bored, and nothing that happens feels unrealistic.

So while it's a movie I don't really need to see again, it's good to experience once. It's intense while it lasts, and is a nice reminder of what could've actually happened if swine flu was actually a big deal.
I can't think of any redeeming aspect in this movie to justify it's ticket money. All the movie is so pale and shallow, without even a hint of suspense building up. Millions of people are dead? Whatever. The cure is found? Whatever, everyone knew it would happen, move along. The brave scientist tests the vaccine on herself? Whatever, just another 30 seconds in the movie until we move on to another pointless scene.

Furthermore, parts of the movie are not even related, I'm not even sure why these scenes were shown to me. For example, what role exactly does Matt Damon's character play in the movie? Why should I care about his teenage daughter's romance? And for crying out loud, why that seems as important as the discovery of the cure itself?!

What can I say, youtube is full of better directed videos done by 14 year-olds. My humble advice is to watch Andromeda Strain (1971) instead, at least that one has a "soul".
Like a tea kettle, it starts hissing, then steams and whistles like crazy, then dies down
Since 1918 there has been a paranoid fear of a plague spreading around the world once again. It's 2011, how would things be handled? If you're smart, you know how most of the world would handle it, most people would turn into animals while the rich would benefit off the death of others. Movies have been created the past few decades on plagues hitting again, The Stand (even if it's a miniseries), 28 Days Later, Dawn of the Dead, etc. It's terrifying to think of, hard to grasp even. Contagion was made on a more realistic documentary type of movie on "what if…" factors. With an all star cast, we find out how fear can spread faster than a virus and what would life be like if everything and everyone we touched could kill us.

Beth goes to Hong Kong on a business trip to participate in a groundbreaking ceremony for a new factory. While in Hong Kong, Beth visits a casino and plays a dice game with colleagues from the plant. Once the ceremony is complete, Beth flies back to her husband, Mitch. Later that night Beth collapses on the floor in what appears to be a seizure. Beth is rushed to a hospital for treatment and passes to an unknown cause. Dr. Cheever of the Centers for Disease Control leads an investigation into disease related deaths, all exhibiting similar symptoms. As the contagion spreads, hearings are set up to discuss possible solutions, airports within the state are shut down, and the national guard is deployed to Minneapolis to cordon off the city, set up treatment centers and provide general order. But as the disease proceeds to continue taking millions of lives, the question is not only how to be cured but to stop the contagion from spreading.

Not to sound like a conspiracy theorist or anything, but this movie makes me wonder if it's either trying to prepare us for something or spread propaganda. This weekend, I'm writing this review on September 9, 2011, is the 10 year anniversary of 9/11. My boyfriend and I were watching a documentary the other day and I told him how since that day, we have lived in a paranoid society of fear, somewhat good on the fact that we know we can't be ignorant forever otherwise we'll get bit hard or is it bad; where everything has been so horrible to the point where we can't enjoy anything. Germ-X sales are way high because people are so terrified of catching something. In a society where we are cleaner than ever but we are so panicked to catch a disease of some sort and I wonder because of our media if this causes the problem.

I digress onto the movie. The cast is very exceptional, the main reason I went to see this was to see Kate Winslet, my favorite actress. The cast is an all star, though in some ways it could be a bit distracting as Matt Damon looked a little like Mark Wahlberg to me for some reason. But each actor did a great job holding their own and each one having a little sympathy as you hoped for the best in the film. Although I wanted to throw a fit for Gwenth Paltrow's character spreading the disease to Chicago first, thank you very much! The style of the movie is done very well. I have only 2 complaints, one being that the film could have been a little more shocking, since we are thrown right into the disease spreading, it's hard to latch onto any character because we know there's a chance of them dying. The tension could have been a little more there. The ending was also a little off, thought this is a mild complaint as I would see this like how it fizzled out just like if this was for real, if the human race had fizzled out. But it left me a little unsatisfied; I wanted more at the end. I think I would recommend this as a rental or a matinée for those who want an intelligent film. It does keep you frightened on some level making you wonder if you could be next in a plague that will kill millions of people.

Soderbergh's virus thriller is good but not contagious.
'CONTAGION': Three and a Half Stars (Out of Five)

Director Steven Soderbergh tries his skills dabbling in the horror/sci-fi field with this virus outbreak disaster film. Working from a screenplay by Scott Z. Burns (who also wrote 'THE INFORMANT!' which Soderbergh also directed) Soderbergh tells the story of a highly contagious virus that quickly spreads throughout the world by mere contact, turning deadly in days. It's an ensemble piece featuring Matt Damon, Laurence Fishburne, Kate Winslet, Jude Law, Marion Cotillard and Gwyneth Paltrow all as leads in intersecting stories. Like all of Soderbergh's films it's strongly character and dialogue driven and the horror/thriller elements kind of take a back seat to them. I found the film interesting at first, as well as engaging, but the characters not fleshed out enough and the material a little too dry for my taste.

The movie opens centering on the first person, Beth Emhoff (Paltrow), to contract the virus while on a business trip in Hong Kong. She returns home to her husband Mitch (Damon) and son Clark (Griffin Kane) appearing to be sick but dies days later after being rushed to the hospital, by Mitch, for going into seizures. Clark soon follows but Mitch appears to be immune to the disease. While Mitch and his daughter Jory (Anna Jacoby-Heron) struggle to deal with their loss the virus spreads like falling dominoes and members of the Department of Homeland Security and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, like Dr. Ellis Cheever (Fishburne) and Dr. Erin Mears (Kate Winslet), rush to try and figure out what the virus is and stop it as well as the fear it quickly causes (which of course becomes more dangerous than the virus itself). The film centers on other characters in other areas and positions around the world as well.

While the film does have a lot of character development I think it probably centers on too many characters leaving most of them underdeveloped as a result. We never truly see the basic relatable side of most of the characters, in their natural element, as the film centers far too much on their anguish and desperation. This is why I think the film was a little lacking in my opinion. In the hands of a more fitting director it could have been a much more polished out character driven drama or a perfectly decent genre film with social commentary (or both). This film tries to straddle the line of both and fails, falling a little short in both areas because of it. A filmmaker like George A. Romero could have truly done justice to a film like this in his day. Still the film is technically competent and it delivers most of what it promises. A little slow and unfocused in places but for the most part it works to a certain extent. Soderbergh has been really hit and miss for me throughout his career so I can't say this film was a disappointment. I'd say it's about average for him, maybe even a little better.

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A dozen good ingredients with a lousy recipe.
I had very high hopes for contagion. A fast-paced "disaster" movie with an all-star cast including Matt Damon, Gwyneth Paltrow, Kate Winslet, Laurence Fishburne, and Jude Law - How could such a formula produce a bad movie? Simple. Too many cooks in the kitchen.

The basic premise of the plot is that a woman and her young son both die from a mysterious infection that begins spreading like wildfire, and the CDC and WHO scramble to find the cause and the cure before it gets any worse. Meanwhile, the woman's grieving husband attempts to protect himself and his daughter from infection, a freelance would-be journalist (aka blogger) cooks up a conspiracy theory, a WHO researcher is taken hostage by a man who wants to ensure that his village is among the first to receive the cure, an underdog doctor doing unauthorized research becomes the first to discover the vaccine... are you getting tired yet? Any of these characters on their own, or even mixed two or three together, would make for a worthwhile film. Unfortunately, they're all fighting for real estate in this one. The result is a veritable Brandsmart of plot devices, none of which is given the investment of time it needs to grow to its full potential. Adding insult to injury is the fact that there are a good dozen or so tiny plot threads that the film makes it a point to smack the viewer over the head with as if to say, "Remember this - it'll be important later;" however, that later never comes.

The coup de grace lies in the climax... or lack thereof. It's difficult to say when it happens, because there is no big "BOOM!" of a moment, no turning point at which the hopeless suddenly becomes hopeful again, no resolution for all the little subplots that have spent the previous ninety minutes getting all dressed up and ultimately having no place to go. The story ends on a quiet whimper and the credits begin to roll, with the discovery of the outbreak's source being of minor comfort - it does not save any lives, nor does it serve any purpose in the overall advancement of the plot. It's ultimately the proverbial bone thrown to a starving man, having already been stripped of all its meat.

Without even realizing it, cinema-goers have been trained by years upon decades of movie history to walk into the theatre with certain expectations - we want to know that if it's absolutely necessary for a "good guy" to die, that death somehow contributes to the greater good, or that if a mysterious evil (in this case, a rapidly spreading disease) threatens the population, the "good guys" will miraculously discover a cure before half the Earth's population is stricken. In the end, we are given none of these things, and I for one felt very let down.
With a Chilling Doomsday Scenario Contagion is a gripping and Disturbing Film.
A couple of years ago, news and health agencies the world over were concerned about a possible pandemic stemming from bird flu and swine flu. Thankfully like SARS a few years earlier, the outbreaks were rather small thanks to a wealth of precautionary information and measures. In the new film "Contagion" director Steven Soderbergh paints a frighteningly realistic look at a worldwide pandemic that spread without warning, and its devastating aftermath.

When businesswoman Beth Emhoff (Gwyneth Paltrow), returns from a business trip to Hong Kong with what appears to be a simple case of the flu, her husband Mitch (Matt Damon), figures it's nothing to be overly concerned about. When Beth all of a sudden begins to convulse and later dies unexpectedly, doctors are at a loss to explain what happened.

Over the next few days, more and more people become sick and die including Mitch's young stepson, which gets the national and international disease control organizations working overtime to try to trace, identify and treat this mysterious ailment that sweeping the globe. Dr. Ellis Cheever (Laurence Fishburne) leads the investigation in the United States and calls in Dr. Erin Mears (Kate Winslet), to track who may have come into contact with Beth upon her return to the Minneapolis. The World Health Organization sends Dr. Leonora Orantes (Marion Cotillard) to Hong Kong trace possible origins.

As the first week passes more and more people become sick worldwide, cities start fighting a losing battle against frenzy and panic. In time the virus is identified but due to its unique nature, finding a vaccine and producing it can take several months with thousands of lives lost with each passing day. With chaos breaking loose and the bodies piling up, the authorities find themselves unable to deal with the threat they are facing and go to extreme measures such as closing the state borders to try to contain the spread of the virus.

Adding to the confusion is a freelance blogger named Alan (Jude Law), who has amassed a large audience with his conspiracy claims that there are indeed cures available for the mysterious virus. He contends the government elite and the pharmaceutical companies are exploiting the situation in order to milk maximum profit from the inevitable release of a vaccine.

The film deftly moves around the world showing the victims, scientists and investigators and how the crisis is affecting them. It also shows how quickly society can break down as scene after shocking scene of chaos and devastation are introduced juxtaposed with the number of days since the outbreak of the virus.

Soderbergh keeps you on the edge of your seat and doesn't give you a moment's rest. Characters are introduced and given just enough of a back story so that you understand their place in the film. Most heartbreaking is Matt Damon's role as a father who was watching over his only remaining child, going to great measures to keep her safe while also dealing with the death of his wife and the unfolding secret of the last days of her life.

There is truly an impressive array of stars in the film, some of whom play brief but significant parts in the overall story. However, the movie's strength is also its weakness in that with so many primary characters, there were some diverging story lines with that did not get fully fleshed out.

While "Contagion" is not the first film to deal with viral outbreak, it is perhaps the most realistic as it doesn't resort to any Hollywood standards such as car chases, explosions, starcrossed lovers and so on to tell its story. Instead it focuses on stark, somber scenarios and the struggles of each character is very easy to relate to.

Kudos has to be given to many of the stars of the film for their understated but pitch perfect work in very unglamorous roles. Their subtle & poignant acting underscore the dire situations that their characters find themselves in. It was refreshing to see leading men and women looking quite ordinary and letting the story carry the picture rather than focusing on one individual to save the day.

All throughout the film I found myself captivated and never once did I lose interest in the scenarios or characters nor did I find anything in the film impossible to believe. The film doesn't go overboard on pointing fingers instead it gives an honest and unflinching look at a scenario that we can only hope will never happen. But as the film points out, viral outbreaks have occurred all throughout history. Hardly an encouraging message, but thanks to the stellar cast and gripping subject matter "Contagion" is a film you will not want to miss.

Gareth Von Kallenbach Skewed and Reviewed
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