Contagion spreads entertainment

By: Logan Pierce, editor-in-chief

In movies, the lone protagonist rising to the occasion often resolves the conflict. Audiences like to root for the underdog. Contagion differs from traditional Hollywood storytelling in its attempt to portray a more realistic depiction of crisis management.

If this were “I am Legend,” the film would focus on one heroic scientist working in isolation, against all odds, to find the cure.

In contrast, Contagion presents an accurate depiction of how the world would deal with a virus that has killed hundreds of thousands of people. It involves several organizations working together and pooling their resources.

Infectious talent

The star-studded cast includes Matt Damon, Gwyneth Paltrow, Kate Winslet, Laurence Fishburne, Elliott Gould, and Jude Law. It takes a certain kind of director to juggle the stories of so many characters and keep the audience’s attention.

Steven Soderbergh is well placed as the director of Contagion; having gained experience directing the character-driven “Ocean’s Eleven” a decade ago. The on-screen chemistry between actors of the “Ocean” films was palpable; while in Contagion, its effect is lessened by the fact that many of the stars never interact with each other. They may talk over the phone, but the actors usually share only a few scenes together. This isolation of the characters does help amplify the creepy atmosphere of the film.

Gwyneth Paltrow plays Beth Emhoff while Matt Damon plays her husband, Mitch; who struggles to keep his humanity while the spread of the virus causes societal breakdowns around him. This is not a strong film for Damon; whose portrayal of numb shock makes him look bored.

Neutralizing the threat

The most relatable characters in the film are the doctors; Erin Mears, played by Winslet, and Ellis Cheever, played by Fishburne. (Insert your own clever ‘red pill blue pill’ Matrix joke here.) You can feel the empathy they have for their patients, and each other.

Jude Law plays Alan Krumwiede, a blogger who fancies himself a “freelance journalist.” Who tries to uncover the reality of the disease. When he ambushes Dr. Ian Sussman, played by Gould, Krumwiede tries to get an interview. Sussman brushes him off, saying, “You’re not a reporter. You’re a blogger. You’re a graffitist with punctuation.”

Final Diagnosis

There’s no typical villain in Contagion. The virus came, not from the hubris of a mad scientist or the machinations of a terrorist cell, but from nature. An entity that can’t be reasoned with, whose only motive is to spread. This gives Contagion a commonality with natural disaster movies. In spite of some flaws, Contagion is a disease worth catching…in theatres.

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