Thursday, September 08, 2011

This Movie Is Sick

If you're anything like me, you're gonna need to take a long Purell shower after seeing Contagion, Steven Soderbergh's thriller about a mysterious airborne illness that wipes out a significant portion of the world's population. And that's just for starters. You won't be able to touch a glass or piece of silverware in a restaurant, put your hand on a subway pole, or pass along a folder in your office. You won't want to eat bacon, or give another person a hug, either. Heck, you may as well just stay home and contain yourself so you don't incur any risk of catching a similar virus.

Of course, I'm exaggerating there, but only a little. Contagion is a completely alarmist movie, one that'll make you uncomfortable from the first sound of a cough on screen. That cough comes from Beth Emhoff (Gwyneth Paltrow), who arrives home from a business trip to Hong Kong not feeling quite right. She infects her son, and within days, they're both dead — to the shock of her husband, Tom (Matt Damon), who is somehow (and unexplainably) immune. The quickly spreading disease affects others both in China and the United States, as well as in Europe and other parts of the world, and soon members of the CDC and WHO (played by Kate Winslet, Laurence Fishburne, and Marion Cotillard) are on the case trying to find the source and create a vaccine. Oh, and there's also a conspiracy theorist (Jude Law) who believes the government is not really doing the best it can to help those affected and stop the spread of the disease.

Scared yet?

An effectively made movie, Contagion moves as quickly as the mysterious disease, helped along by some strong performances (Fishburne in particular imbues his role with a whole lot of gravitas) and a score by Cliff Martinez that's reminiscent of the techno/industrial sound in The Social Network. Some of the dialogue and plot devices (oh my God, he just touched that!!) are a bit corny, and Soderbergh loves to linger over things like a bowl of peanuts sitting on a bar, but overall, you can't watch Contagion without feeling like you'll never go to the bathroom and not wash your hands again, and you won't be able to scold someone who doesn't cover his mouth when he coughs. Oh, and just a warning, you're gonna see more of Gwyneth Paltrow than you ever thought you would. Good times, for sure.

If this review seems a little over the top, that's because it's in keeping with the tone of the movie, which is similarly heightened. But it's a good movie, all things considered — much better than Outbreak, anyway. I'm giving Contagion a B+.



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