Review of Contagion
This long awaited sequel to 12 Monkeys teaches us that if you cheat on your husband, you’ll start a worldwide outbreak of a rare disease that kills 26 million people. So keep your hoo-ha in your skirt, ladies. That’s what Jude Law is really trying to tell us. Also, bats and pigs shouldn’t hang together.
This movie starts out in a hurry. It’s got shit to do. Gwyneth Paltrow contracts the disease, flies back to the U.S., cheats on her husband and dies in the first 7 minutes. And it does not jog in place to let you catch your breath. It just darts straight across the intersection without looking and expects you to keep up. Matt Damon plays the husband and step-father and the movie cuts back and forth between the effects this outbreak has on the family and the global impact of it. Every scene introduces another big-time actor and had some issues trying to give them all screen time, as evident by the fact that Marion Cotillard was in the movie for less than 6 minutes.
In addition to Gwyneth, Matt, Jude and Marion, Lawrence Fishburn, Kate Winslet, Bryan Cranston and even Demetri Martin fell out of Comedy Central and made it into this movie. But the real story was the story. And more specifically, the specifics. This movie did its homework, or at least was intelligent-sounding enough to seem like it. It was the Blue Chips of disease movies. In addition to the chemistry behind the disease, it tackled the social implications on a micro-level with the janitor working at the CDC lab and on a macro-level with Jude Law’s internet propaganda character, making sure this movie was at least a little more than just a remake of Outbreak. Oh yeah. Elliot Gould was in this too.
Soderbergh leads us in one direction with a character, while he tucks the little foam ball into the faux-thumb on his other hand. In the course of 10 seconds, the internet propagandist we all thought was exposing the CDC for its handling of the viral information – traded places with that CDC official in the eyes of the audience. Soderbergh still tidies up the film by making sure every character is either good or bad, but at least he bothers to switch it around on us from time to time. And much in the way he handled Traffic about 10 years ago, he wove together all these self-contained vignettes into a quilt where you can still see some of the seams, but it keeps you very warm and you don’t have to hide it when company comes over. 9 bugs (out of 10).