Strong Ensemble Somewhat Wasted in Plot Heavy Film
Contagion is dutifully directed by sometimes artist, sometimes hack Steve Soderbergh, in a crisp, efficient, if emotionless manner. The movie is about a disease rapidly spreading with the potential of wiping out a good chunk of the world's population. Usually in a giant disaster movie, films primarily follow a family; people who are at risk of exposure and lack the means to save themselves. This film instead primarily focuses on a few government workers trying to come up to a solution.
Laurence Fishburne, Kate Winslet, Jennifer Ehle, Bryan Cranston, Enrico Colantoni, Demetri Martin, and Marion Cotillard all work in various branches of the government working to combat the virus and its destructiveness in one form or another. Winslet is the only one who is confronted by the virus (and it happens all of the sudden) and she is killed by it quickly afterwards. Her death happens so soon after the onset of symptoms that the we never truly suffer with her; that is a microcosm of the main problem of the film. The film is not interested in the suffering of the helpless people; they are killed off coldly and swiftly much like the virus itself. Focusing the majority of the screen time on the government workers, who were seemingly not in danger, made the film feel fairly heartless.
The only source of heart in the film is Matt Damon's character whose cheating wife (Gwyneth Paltrow) was patient zero of the epidemic, and whose step-son died after being exposed to his mother (Paltrow) contracted the virus. Luckily for him, he is immune to the virus, and now is trying to keep his daughter (from his first wife) safe as Minneapolis crumbles. Similar stories to this one would have made for an emotional roller coaster of a film.
Overall, this was a good movie-going experience but not entirely satisfying.
- Marion Cotillard disappears for such a long time and her story-line is so surpufulous that I assume they would have cut her role entirely had she not been such a big name
- Jude Law's role was not especially exciting, and I would have rather seen his role cut if it would have lead to more screen time for John Hawkes and others