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Contagion

September 11, 2011

Dr. Ellis Cheever: So we have a virus with no treatment protocol, and no vaccine at this time.

Contagion is a pretty solid film. It is very well written and has some terrific dialogue, as well as steady tension throughout. The concept is spectacular, yet isn’t used to it’s full extent aside from various, little moments throughout, which was a major pet peeve for me. The acting is superbly executed due to it’s impressive cast. It’s not necessarily a surprise that this was a solid film, seeing that it comes from acclaimed director Steven Soderbergh, who continues his well-established career of making greats such as Out of Sight and Ocean Eleven, and while it doesn’t quite get a home run like it’s counterparts, Contagion is definitely a solid double.

The film starts off with Beth (Gwyneth Paltrow) dying from an unknown illness very suddenly. Her husband Mitch (Matt Damon) watches her die and after that we follow Mitch and his daughter, along with a lot of other people’s experiences during this epidemic. These include Dr. Ellis Cheever (Laurence Fishburne) who works for the CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention), Dr. Erin Mears (Kate Winslet) who is another investigator of the epidemic, Dr. Lenora Orantes (Marion Cotillard), who travels to Hong Kong to find where the disease began, and Alan Krumwiede (Jude Law), a blogger who wants to share the truth about the CDC to the public eye and show them what’s really going on. Meanwhile, these individuals are also striving to save their own lives.

I quite liked this film. I guess I should mention that there was really no scenario in which I would dislike it, considering that I have never given a Soderbergh movie less than three stars. I did however, not expect a film like this. I felt it was more adult than advertised, which was a surprise, that was surely pleasant. This isn’t as much a disaster film as much as a film chronicling human emotion, depth, and realistic reactions to a somewhat realistic situation. The character development isn’t quite as superb as I might have hoped, but I still found myself caring for these characters a whole lot. 

Of course you cannot have spectacular characters without spectacular actors, and Contagion has an array of spectacular actors. I’ll start with Matt Damon, who plays the film’s emotional core. Damon’s performance is very low key and different from his usual wild-types, which is nice for a change. Marion Cotillard was given less screen time than initially advertised, but is good as the “innocent” type. Laurence Fishburne is solid yet forgettable in his role playing another “innocent” boss-type character, in a fine performance. Paltrow is maybe on screen for about four minutes total, so there isn’t much to speculate, but she was pretty good at dying.

Jude Law gave a masterful performance, his character was sweet funny, and innocent (I know I’m mentioning that a lot, most of these characters are pretty innocent), as well as relatable, and plays a huge role towards the films conclusion. These are all great performances, but I thought Kate Winslet was just phenomenal  in her fantastic role. Her character was a favorite of mine and I couldn’t think of a better actress to play her. Winslet definitely wins my award for the year’s best actress (knocking Kristen Wiig out of the spot). Winslet’s character is the one to root for, and even though she basically plays the counterpart of Fishburnes’ character, she handles the source material much better. 

I feel as if I’m capturing this as a fantastic movie, which it’s far from. I actually found myself bored at several times throughout, becoming uninterested and unmotivated to pay attention for some parts. Aside from that, this is a very poorly shot film. The whole film is incredibly blurry throughout, making it nearly unwatchable. This is such a disappointment, especially seeing it in IMAX because first, there is simply no reason for a film like this to be in IMAX because there is nothing special about it. Second, I had no interest in seeing a poorly shot film in IMAX, and left the theater disappointed at that fact.

For as long as I can remember, Steven Soderbergh has been one of my favorite directors. He has talent like no other, and always manages to bring something new and exciting to the table. I’ve been a fan of his ever since Out of Sight (which is and will always remain a timeless classic in my eyes) and an even bigger fan of him after seeing Oceans Eleven (the sequels were pretty average in my eyes). Contagion is actually the opposite of his type of film. He always goes for sort of a gritty filmmaking style (this was just horribly filmed), but he makes this a much smoother and calmer film. It was a bit of a surprise that he pulled it off, but he should definitely stick to what he’s good at; making good, gritty, hard R-rated films.

Despite those flaws, I had a good time watching Contagion. I found it to be sort of offbeat, yet immensely enjoyable throughout. I did have a huge problem with the boring parts and the blurred camera, but with Steven Soderbergh’s superb direction, and spectacular performances from Matt Damon, Kate Winslet, Marion Cotillard, Laurence Fishburne, Jude Law, and Gwyneth Paltrow, Contagion is an acceptable post-summer film that is smart and watchable. 

Contagion = 3 ½ out of 5

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7 Comments leave one →
  1. September 18, 2011 4:48 pm

    Contagion becomes a battle between what it is and what it could have been. It satisfies just enough to warrant its existence while frustrating one with its potential. Nice review!

  2. Sean Skywalker permalink
    September 19, 2011 2:52 pm

    I absolutely despised it. Everything about it was mediocre; the filming, the script, as well as the lazy performances. There was no entertainment to be found in this pile of mediocracy.

  3. September 19, 2011 3:07 pm

    @CMrok93 Completely agree with that statement. Thanks.

    @Sean I’m sorry you didn’t like it, not everyone will; it’s mainly for die-hard Soderbergh fans.

  4. September 20, 2011 10:19 am

    Good review! I actually ended up giving it the same score! I was, however, disappointed in the limited/unfinished use of Cotillard! She is turning into one of MY fave actresses of the year. Did you see Midnight in Paris?

  5. September 20, 2011 12:21 pm

    Agreed. I expected more, but was somewhat satisfied.

  6. September 20, 2011 12:21 pm

    Midnight in Paris was great, I have that reviewed too.

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