When fatal virus/disease begins infecting and killing people around the globe, the CDC round up their best team of scientists and doctors to assess and indentify this new threat in hopes of formulating a vaccine to cure this rising epidemic.
Viruses and diseases are scary, something we're all taught at an early age in school. We learn about old school killers like Cholera and Small Pox and then graduate into modern day fanfare like HIV, but beyond this common scope anyone alive over the past couple decades have come to fear new age strains like Swine Flu, SARS and H1N1. We read about the first ones and nod our heads, we hear about HIV every day and still go on like "it couldn't happen to me", but those last three have ignited some real fear over the past few years and I'm sure they won't be the last we see in this lifetime. The fear in CONTAGION's arsenal is clear, they're trying to shock and scare us with "what could happen" and in that regard I'll admit to my skin crawling on more than one occasion, but when it comes right down it, this is no OUTBREAK.
Steven Soderbergh isn't about the faster paced path OUTBREAK went down, rather he's more of a slow burn sort of guy as anyone who enjoyed SOLARIS and TRAFFIC know and that suits me just fine here as the direness of the situation and it's impending doom set the mood far better than guns blazing. The trailer gives a couple plot points away that don't really affect the film, one being that Gwyneth Paltrow bites the dust and pretty much gets this party started, and two being that pandemonium ensues. Now I'm not going to blow the lid off anything here and ruin it, instead I'll go on to explain that the only thing scarier than this virus is how the many branches of society react to it.
There are many situations, decision and reactions in this film that will frustrate just about any viewer (I know they got my blood boiling), but they make for some believable watching. You couldn't pay me enough to be one of those CDC scientists sealed up in one of those inflatable condoms playing around with viral monsters all day long. There's one scene when two of them are examining one like it's just another day at the office while discussing their weekend endeavours. I dug that, as it shows us just how vulnerable we are to human error. Add to that all the government protocol and red tape involved in potentially finding a cure and you really get down to how scary an outbreak can really get! Amidst all the growing fear and doubt is Jude Law's character who really steals the show as the "end of days" pariah. Forget Matt Damon's broken home persona, yes he's a tragic character in a tragic situation, but for my money, this was Law's turn to shine.
CONTAGION is a smart thriller that comes to us at an opportune moment, a time when the threat of viral disease is still fresh in our minds and the fear has yet to fully evaporate. Now Hollywood may indeed be capitalising with one hand, but the other hand is gently caressing a Pandora's box. The idea and potential possibility of a viral epidemic is probably more real than any of us want to admit, but one thing is for certain, I sincerely doubt I'm the only person who wipes down my shopping cart with one of those disinfectant wipes they now have at the door when you go in. Now I may not be one of those people who carry around a bottle of anti-bacteria gel in my pocket...but that doesn't mean it's a bad idea.