Director: Steven Soderbergh
Cast: Matt Damon, Gwyneth Paltrow, Laurence Fishburne, Jude Law, Marion Cotillard, Kate Winslet
Plot: Healthcare professionals, government officials and everyday people find themselves in the midst of a worldwide epidemic as the CDC works to find a cure.
Genre: Drama / Thriller
Rating: PG13 for disturbing content and some language.
IN RETROSPECT (Spoilers: NO)
Contagion is one of the year‟s more anticipated films, helmed by a master filmmaker who has made a wide variety of films in different genres for more than twenty years now. In the mainstream circles, he is well-known for directing the 'Ocean’s' (2001, 2004, 2007) trilogy, though in all honesty, the name Steven Soderbergh has been lauded more in the American independent cinema scene than anywhere else.
This brings us to Contagion, a commercial effort no less that will also be screened in the IMAX format. This implies that it is not only a film to be seen, but to be experienced as well. Unfortunately, I was underwhelmed by what was presented on screen. When a film that proudly markets its tagline as “nothing spreads like fear” is inexplicably dull, it is sure to be a disappointing, or at best, an average experience.
And that is my judgment of Contagion – a mildly unsatisfying picture with a premise that offers so much but is never, truly explored or exploited to its greatest potential. In a way, this is Soderbergh's 'Outbreak', the forgettable Wolfgang Petersen thriller of the mid-nineties also centering on an epidemic.
Contagion features one of the strongest ensemble cast committed to a Hollywood production in years – Matt Damon, Gwyneth Paltrow, Laurence Fishburne, Jude Law, Marion Cotillard, Kate Winslet. Even John Hawkes, who was nominated for an Oscar for a supporting role in Winter’s Bone (2010), makes a cameo appearance as a janitor.
The strength of the cast is sadly weakened by the film‟s loose approach to its narrative. No particular actor is outstanding here as not enough screen time is given to them to perform. There is also one character too many, causing our attention to split.
This lack of character focus is one of Contagion's flaws, yet it is its pacing that is its biggest problem. The surprising lack of urgency makes this a relatively pedestrian film that is sometimes guilty of ignoring the audience's need for excitement.
I appreciate, however, the effort the filmmakers have made to stay true to realism, by which I mean the film's depiction of what actually goes on behind-the-scenes in bio research labs and how organizations such as the World Health Organization would reasonably tackle deadly epidemics such as the one presented in Contagion.
Soderbergh, whose previous works have been relatively liberal either in content or in filmmaking style, has chosen to adopt a more conservative approach to handling Contagion. "The government is always right" seems to be the mantra and any radical notion as espoused by bloggers (represented by Law's character) trying to seek the truth is tossed into flames.
In a nutshell, the impact of Contagion's treatment of social-political themes is not readily felt, neither is it an entertaining film to begin with. Watch it if you wish to, for you might come out of the theater with a different opinion.
GRADE: C+ (6.5/10 or 3 stars)