September 25, 2011
Steven Soderbergh is one of my favorite movie directors because of his unique approach to story telling as displayed in what arguably was his best movie, "Traffic." He is already planning on winding down his directorial career and had lined up a number of prestige projects, one of which was this one, "Contagion."
There are always a lot of police dramas or legal dramas. But medical dramas are few and far between. I was excited to watch this one because of the relevant topic. The array of top draw stars in the cast is also formidable: Matt Damon, Gwyneth Paltrow, Kate Winslet, Jude Law, Marion Cotillard, Lawrence Fishburne. I think I may have expected too much.
The story about an pandemic of global proportion of a deadly viral disease is definitely not new. It had already been tackled very well in "Outbreak" more than 10 years ago. "Contagion" does not offer much new perspective on the topic, except perhaps for the conspiracy theory blogger character played by Jude Law. The initial conceit of having events happening in real time was very good.
Also, the presence of so many big name stars meant that there would be less for each of their characters to do. For me, only Kate Winslet was able to create a real moment with her character. She was riveting in her role as the dedicated epidemiology expert who stopped at nothing to investigate the spread of the disease. She was simply too good an actress as she was able to do so much in the short time that she was on screen.
If you had never seen a previous movie about a viral outbreak before, you will find "Contagion" fascinating, interesting and thrilling. However, I have, so that limited my appreciation. It seemed I had seen this movie before. Also, I thought the scenes of violent mass panic happened much too quickly, as did the scenes of vaccine research. Overall, I have to admit I was disappointed. Now excuse me while I go wash my hands.