Director Steven Soderbergh wastes a lot of talent in his new film, “Contagion.” Although it’s chock-full of Oscar-winning actors, there’s a distinct lack of character development. But he does provide a profound abundance of fear and paranoia that chills to the bone.
The movie opens with a black screen accompanied by two coughs. It’s day two, and Gwyneth Paltrow isn’t feeling too well after having returned from Hong Kong. She dies suddenly, and, soon after, her son succumbs to the same ailment. We now know it’s infectious, and when they remove the top of her skull, the pandemic horror begins.
International chaos ensues with Kate Winslet at the helm as a doctor for the Centers for Disease Control, and Marion Cotillard plays an epidemiologist for the World Health Organization. Laurence Fishburne serves as deputy director of the CDC in Atlanta, and Jennifer Ehle is so desperate in trying to perfect a vaccine, she injects herself. A goofy-toothed Jude Law rears his beautiful/ugly head as a whistle-blowing blogger who blames the government and drug companies for the virus.
Matt Damon, as Paltrow’s husband (who’s mysteriously immune to the virus), is the only character whose plight is humanized. Soderbergh has chosen an almost documentary approach to the subject matter. He expertly instills fear via his camera by lingering on objects with which we come in contact on a daily basis. Elevator buttons, cocktail glasses and a bowl of bar nuts become lethal weapons in the terrifying scenario that unfolds.
I found myself confused with the timelines during the film. It requires strict attention. But when it all comes together in the final scene, you’ll be astounded. “Contagion” is a study in human behavior — the good and bad — which Soderbergh seems to have down pat.
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