“If I had to choose between that and the Matrix? I’d choose the Matrix!” - JOEY PANTS. MATRIX.
I heard of Contagion a very long time ago, I think maybe 2 years ago? The amount of Academy Award winners and nominees in this movie is absolutely ridiculous. Winners: Steven Soderbergh, Matt Damon, Gwyneth Paltrow, Marion Cotillard, Kate Winslet; nominees: Jude Law, Laurence Fishburne, John Hawkes, Eliott Gould. Plus Emmy Award winner Bryan Cranston. So we know the talent was immense, but how was the movie?
What’s odd about this film is that I usually bash films that introduce a multitude of characters and create short arcs for them, but for some reason it works in Contagion. I don’t know if it’s the cold, calculating manner that the stories are handled with or the nice little subtle nuances, but a lot of this movie works for me. I suppose having a great director and a top flight cast doesn’t hurt. There are so many characters here that the fact that there’s so many great names attached almost feels like a deliberate attempt to cash in on our feelings for those actors in general to skip out on character development, yet at the same time I don’t feel like the film was disingenuous.
I’ve heard people make comparisons to Soderbergh’s film Traffic, and I think the comparisons are apt. Whereas that film had a wide scope on the world of drugs, Contagion does it with an infectious disease. I love the realism of this movie. There are certain moments that could have been played up for dramatic effect that are instead just done in a matter-of-factly way because that’s how it would happen in real life. When someone dies, they often don’t get to say this huge speech or convey a life lesson, they just die. The coldness of this film helps separate it from other films of this ilk.
The execution of this film is definitely what separates it from the rest. There are so many small little real life touches that make each character feel real. I never thought that anything that happened in this film was preposterous or stupid. Each character has their own personality and deals with this epidemic in their own way. Sure, there are subplots that don’t feel as satisfying as others, but what works generally outweighs what doesn’t.
Contagion works as a sprawling thriller that takes a serious look at how the world would cope with a widespread contagious disease. There is so much that is covered in such a short amount of time, but the film does so much well. It hits on many themes and explores the shortcomings of society. Do not go into Contagion for a “movie” movie. By that I mean I don’t go in expecting shocking plot twists or many movie-isms. Contagion is a well executed movie about how we would realistically deal with an epidemic and everything that comes with that.
Edit: Special shout out to Jude Law as the crazy blogger. I can’t stop quoting his line from the trailer with his accent in this film “On die wun dare wuz tew peeple, end den for, end den seexteen. In three munths it’s a BEELYUN! That’s-ware-wee’re-hetted!” LOL!
Steven Soderbergh you brilliant bastard! This cast is ridiculously stacked too with Matt Damon, Gwyneth Paltrow, Laurence Fishburne, Jude Law, Marion Cotillard, and Kate Winslet. The imagery from the trailer alone is haunting, let alone the idea of some contagious virus spreading all over the world. I’ve always had a fascination with post-apocalyptic movies where everything in the world goes to shit, so I’m definitely there opening night personally. 2011 in film keeps looking better and better.