Considering it has a cast that features big-name stars Matt Damon, Lawrence Fishburn, Kate Winslet, Gwenyth Paltrow, Jude Law, and others, I find it weird to tell you that none of them are really the star of this film. If anyone, the star of the flick was the disease.
There have been a lot of films that explore the killer disease kind of story -- usually involving a disease that either does not escape (like Dustin Hoffman and Rene Russo in Outbreak or Michael Chrichton's The Andromeda Strain) or a disease that produces some horror film result (like the many zombie apocalypse movies or I Am Legend). Sometimes we get a story about what happens to mankind after a disease has affected the entire human race (like Children of Men) but this is the first movie I can recall that really looks at how mankind would deal with an outbreak on a global scale -- what it would take to contain and cure it as well as how it would change our nature and what we would do to survive.
In that regard, it is a very interesting film though I think the movie could have done a lot more with the examination of how people would change under the constant threat of death from merely touching a fellow human. The story follows several of its stars through the course of how they battle or try to survive the disease, but it does not allow us to get close enough to any of them to really care deeply about them. There are just too many different threads to follow for us to grow really attached to any one of them (though the Matt Damon story comes the closest). In the end, the film almost plays like a documentary at times because the story is more clinical than dramatic. I did enjoy getting to see the CDC and WHO work at tracking and identifying the disease as well as how to cure it. I think there will be a nice education for people about the reality of that kind of work.
I also liked that the film never went over the top. The disease is not 100% fatal to everyone who comes in contact with it. There are no secret meetings of CDC officials where someone proclaims loudly that the entire planet is doomed within the next week. The film adheres to realistic timelines, instead of just pretending like a cure could be found in 24 hours and then distributed to the entire planet. It felt like the story was well-researched and realistic... it really felt like a docudrama based on a real story.
I already mentioned Matt Damon's character being compelling. I also enjoyed Jude Law, as a internet journalist who leads the charge to inform the public about what is going on. Most of the other roles are a bit too wooden for them to mean much to the audience. Still, a well-acted film with non-stop recognizable faces (look for Bryan Cranston and Elliot Gould in addition to the half-dozen "above the title" stars). The film has a good pace -- though it is almost slow at times. Director Steven Soderbergh is clearly one of the Hollywood elite at this point and he does a nice job with some of the city and panicked crowd scenes here.
Bottom line-- this is a good movie and one worth seeing at this time of year when most new films are just being dumped on audiences (the periods in between the big summer and winter movie seasons are always full of movies that Hollywood knows will not make much money). But, it is not great. It sure ain't a date movie, though it is the kind of flick that you will want to talk about after it is done.
If I did those silly 5 star kind of things, I would probably give it 3.5 stars. Enjoy!
-Jason "if you live in Atlanta, I'll be talking about this one on the radio on Friday AM on Star 94" Evans
Don't ask me why, but my mother is making me Tweet. Says it will be good for my career. So, follow my ramblings, mostly on the film industry, @TVFilmTalk
You've convinced me of two things:
1) I want to see this movie.
2) I'll wait for the DVD (or NetFlix or On Demand).
Well, Contagion is the latest iMax experience movie.
It will be nice to go to an iMax movie that's NOT 3-D.
I had incorrectly assumed this was another adaptation of a Robin Cook novel like Outbreak. Unfortunately Cook liked the formula so much that he repeated it over and over. I read 2 more after Outbreak an realized they were all essentially the same book.
Glad to know this one is coming from somewhere else - I may check it out now or wait for Netflix.