Movie Review: Contagion (2011)

When a new deadly pathogen hops from Hong Kong to Chicago, scientists are flummoxed as to what it is and how to stop it.  As the virus spreads across the world and becomes a panic-inducing pandemic, the World Health Organization races to find a cure.  How much of the world’s population will be devastated before a cure can be found–if one even exists–remains largely unknown.

There are a number of things that work well in Steven Soderbergh’s smart, scary thriller.  Everything from the tight plotting and fast pacing to the largely talented cast makes this movie a standout and nearly perfect in its execution.  This is a thriller that shouldn’t be missed.  It is that good.

Directed by Soderbergh, who worked with his usual crew (including writer Scott Z. Burns), the movie is full of a visceral urgency that makes watching the film an intense experience.  This dystopian view of our present world is marked with paranoia, self-interest, obliviousness, and a complete denial of science–all things that the world struggles with.  The film wastes no time in setting up its premise, and while it is highly controlled in its precision, it’s also frightening and emotionally engrossing.

While the film could easily derail into a disaster flick (see: 1995’s Outbreak), the movie stays closer to an international thriller.  The result is, as I’ve already said, really great.  Part of what propels this greatness is the talented cast.  While Laurence Fishbourne is serviceable as a CDC bigwig, it is Kate Winslet as a CDC worker who really nails the role. She tightens her voice and her face and is almost pathological in her sense of duty.  Matt Damon is also great as the bewildered husband of patient zero Gwenyth Paltrow.

Definitely worth your two hours, Contagion is out on DVD now.  Don’t miss it.

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