Can't Touch This


09 September 2011| No Comments on Contagion     by Sean Chavel


Rapid epidemic from the get-go with location-hopping excitement. Contagion is one of the few virus thrillers to really get it right, a sweeping thriller that does not waste time filling in homely back stories. Instead it throttles you right into the dread. Here’s a rare movie that hasn’t been analyzed to death by focus groups and test audiences. Because this movie has the nerve to put not just thousands, but millions to mortality. The world desperation is felt as it lithely crosscuts between locales of the world, and the research facilities presented are top-notch. The director is Steven Soderbergh, who did the interlocking geo-drama “Traffic,” and he is one who effortlessly brings skill to ensemble films. Laurence Fishburne brings fine clout as the deputy director for U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Kate Winslet and Marion Cotillard play U.S. and Switzerland doctors respectively, Matt Damon plays a man immune to the virus while his wife played by Gwyneth Paltrow portrays one of the first victims.

The cast gets bigger and more multi-national, but only Jude Law is annoying (remember his craziness in “The Road to Perdition?”) . Yet the longer he performed on-screen, it became apparent he is riffing on the world famous WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, with Law playing a video blogger who proclaims that the government is guilty of conspiracy. Ultimately, I hated Law’s character but appreciated how he was written.

When it comes to the medical slant, the dialogue that accounts for the epidemic illness is intelligent at scratching the surface but does not go into great insight. Perhaps Soderbergh and writer Scott Burns (“The Bourne Ultimatum”) were worried about bogging it down. They have no problem in depicting angry, looting Americans however. Once I read a magazine piece about how, according to a civic historian and theorist, the U.S. goods and supplies could become so short in fifty years that families would murder others over bread. A little bit of that civilized deterioration is dramatized in this flick.

If anybody is wrung out emotionally it is Damon’s character, as a father who loses so much so fast that he doesn’t want to get involved with his neighbors because he still has one surviving daughter to care for. Perhaps Fishburne gives the best performance with his resilient authoritative quality. Most of the actors really, both small and prominent, are just damn good but it’s really the swift story that holds attention, not a focus on Oscar caliber performances. The feverish and emotive colors of the cinematography are stunning – it deserves an award nomination.

In fact, the weakest part of “Contagion” (the ending fulfills all your morbid curiosities) is that it could have been another 45 minutes and kept me captivated! The pacing is already crackerjack, and it’s hard to come out of the film without wanting to know more about some of the characters, like Cotillard who goes absent from screen for too long. The writing gives you more than you would expect as it’s a large step up from other virus movies like “Outbreak” (1995) and “Dreamcatcher” (2003) that stunk it up.

105 Minutes. Rated PG-13.


Film Cousins: “Fantastic Voyage” (1966); “The Andromeda Strain” (1971); “Outbreak” (1995); “Dreamcatcher” (2003).

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Sean Chavel

About The Author / Sean Chavel

Sean Chavel is a Hollywood based author and movie reviewer. He is the Executive Director of, a new website that has adapted the movie review site genre by introducing moodbased and movie experience based reviews.


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