become a Patreon patron

film criticism by maryann johanson | since 1997

Contagion (review)

Jennifer Ehle in Contagion

Ohmygod the germs, the germs! They’re everywhere! On our hands. On everything we touch! Credit cards, bowls of nuts on the bar, poles on the bus, our phones, our kids… Get the antiseptic!

Director Steven Soderbergh and screenwriter Scott Z. Burns — who previously collaborated on the slyly witty The Informant! — go for plausibly realistic horror here: Contagion is The Stand without Satan stalking the Earth (though Matt Damon [The Adjustment Bureau] gets to be a bit Stu Redman-ish), a terrifyingly credible look at what will all in likelihood happen if and when a newly mutated bug to which we have no immunity gets loose in the enormous — and enormously mobile — human population. (It’s probably rather optimistic, actually, about the near collapse of civilization.)

Intriguingly, the nightmare begins on Day 2 of a planetary pandemic, when Gwyneth Paltrow’s (Country Strong) traveling American executive, on her way home from a business trip to China, already looks like hell. Is she Patient Zero, or was it someone she met on her travels who passed the virus on to her? As the killer flu she carries spreads exponentially, and oh-so quickly, in Hong Kong, Tokyo, Chicago, London, and beyond, doctors and scientists — including, in refreshingly no-nonsense performances, Laurence Fishburne (Predators), Kate Winslet (The Reader), Jennifer Ehle (The Ides of March), Elliot Gould (Ocean’s Thirteen), and Marion Cotillard (Inception) — rush to figure out what the virus is, where it came from, and whether it can be cured, or at least vaccinated against.

Contagion is foremost a detective story, with a science-positive bent here: there are no mad scientists, just intelligent, driven, dedicated people, and though there are nods to the inevitable questions about corporate malfeasance and big-pharma profiteering — mostly via Jude Law’s (Repo Men) muckracking blogger — the film focuses on the human impulses, for better or worse, of individuals in impossible situations. It offers some small, warm hope against the harsh reality: that as smart as we may be, nature is smarter, and without conscience.

When you purchase or rent almost anything from Amazon US, Amazon Canada, Amazon UK, and iTunes (globally), you help support my work at Flick Filosopher. Please use my links when you’re shopping at either service. Thank you!

Contagion (2011) | directed by Steven Soderbergh
US/Can release: Sep 09 2011
UK/Ire release: Oct 21 2011

Flick Filosopher Real Rating: rated GTA: get the antiseptic!
MPAA: rated PG-13 for disturbing content and some language
BBFC: rated 12A (contains moderate physical and psychological threat and brief medical gore)

viewed at a public multiplex screening

official site | IMDb | trailer
more reviews: Movie Review Query Engine | Rotten Tomatoes

If you’re tempted to post a comment that resembles anything on the film review comment bingo card, please reconsider.

Share via
Copy link
Powered by Social Snap