Film Review: Contagion (2011)
Running Time: 106 min
Genres: Drama | Sci-Fi | Thriller
Gwyneth Paltrow as Beth Emhoff (who dies early)
Tien You Chui as Li Fai (this is the same Tien You Chui who played Officer James Shum in La lingerie and who also played Goh Keung in The Haunted School. Who knew?)
Josie Ho as Li Fai's Sister (Josie Ho! Need I write more?)
Daria Strokous as Irina
Matt Damon as Mitch Emhoff
Monique Gabriela Curnen as Lorraine Vasquez
Griffin Kane as Clark Morrow
Yoshiaki Kobayashi as Japanese Bus Man (finally, after years of directing and abusing actors in the name of art, it is now Yoshiaki's turn in the barrel)
Laurence Fishburne as Dr. Ellis Cheever
John Hawkes as Roger
Jude Law as Alan Krumwiede
Teri McEvoy as School Nurse
Sue Redman as ER Nurse #1
Teri Campbell as ER Nurse #2
Stef Tovar as Dr. Arrington
and a host of others, most of whom die off during the film.
I saw Contagion a few days ago and since then I've gone through three bottles of hand sanitizer and invested in one gross of Latex surgical gloves. If you are interested in developing a good case of mysophobia and a high probability of moving on up to full blown obbsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), then I can highly reccommend this film as a good beginning. Here's why, without spoilers.
No one likes to get sick, with the possible exception of elementary school children faced with another day in prison coupled with a math test given to them in the name of it's for the children by some unholy bitch on a stick single twenty-something Jewish elementary school teacher who hates goyim and males, not necessarily in that order. Otherwise, people hate getting sick. You see, when you get sick you miss work and hence you lose money, and you can just forget about taking those sick days when you're feeling better. Get sick enough and if you have health insurance you'll go to the hospital, where some well-meaning sawbones will run a stainless steel roto-rooter up your fundament just to see how it fits. Of course, if you don't have health insurance you can skip this part and maybe be better off for it. At least, that's how things look in the beginning of Contagion.
The basis for this film is that a weird new virus gets loose in the United States. The virus is airborne and anyone catching it generally expires noisily in public, spouting gibberish while hacking and blowing bloody snot all over the place as their lungs shut down. Nasty stuff. The the completely predictable happens. Civilization breaks down, survivalists scream a final "I told you so!" before diving into their pill boxes, police and fire departments are overwhelmed and the Moonbats belatedly realize how incredibly stupid and ineffective their gun control laws are - right before their GOP neighbor loots their home. Okay, I'm sort of kidding about the Moonbats, but it's implied. Anyway, about 15 minutes of the entire film is devoted to this kind of thing, which is very refreshing since it's been done to death, resurrected and done again several times over. The rest of the film makes sense - and it's a little chilling.
Don't look for a lot of character development here, because there isn't any. The characters exist to tell the story, and the director does a great job with this. It helps that there's a set of outstanding writers involved somewhere as well as solid directing, but my point here is that the story is the main focus. It's a good story, and without hammering away at the point it shows the incompetence of our own government during a protracted crises. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) gets involved early on and is presented in a fairly good light. The author uses the CDC to educate the audience, during which time we find out that airborne diseases have an incubation period and a replication factor - in other words, the number of people that are likely to become infected by one person before that person either gets well or not, as the case may be. The other thing we learn is that it takes time to construct a cure for this monster, and time is the thing no one has.
On top of this the armed forces get involved, because as some regular army officer with an indecipherable insignia on his collar tells us, "The enemy has suicide bombers. How much of a stretch is it for the enemy to have someone get sick and travel to the U.S.?" Although by the time it's said, everyone on the good side of the bell curve has made the jump and concluded this as a real possibility. Another obvious cliche that isn't used is the unsung hero who develops a cure but is ignored by the incompetent and self-serving government. The film doesn't even go there, and that's nice. What the film does do is get the press involved and shows everyone just how evil the press is, how the First Amendment should actually be modified for everyone's good, and how typewriters are evil. The writers make a pretty good case here, by the way, but don't take my word for it. See for yourself.
The film hangs together very nicely. It's fiction, but if you discount a few small items it's believable fiction. It doesn't go over the top. The tension builds slowly, like a fully loaded freight train rolling out of the yard. By the time everyone realizes the train is a runaway on a collision course with the orphanage it's too late to do much of anything except watch.
I rate this one as a 7 out of 10. You don't have to see it on the big screen, but you'll enjoy it more if you do. It's worth the price of full admission. My only caveat is with the rating. For reasons that I haven't been able to quantify, I'd rate this one an R. I think it was rated PG-13 on a technicality, and it shouldn't have been. And, by the way, this is not a film I'd take Main Lady or her three little darlings to see, but your mileage may vary.