Director: Steven Soderbergh
Cast: Marion Cotillard, Matt Damon, Laurence Fishburne, Jude Law, Gwyneth Paltrow, Kate Winslet
RunTime: 1 hr 47 mins
Released By: Warner Bros
Rating: PG13 (Brief Coarse Language and Disturbing Scene)
Opening Day: 8 September 2011
Synopsis: "Contagion" follows the rapid progress of a lethal airborne virus that kills within days. As the fast moving epidemic grows, the worldwide medical community races to find a cure and control the panic that spreads faster than the virus itself. At the same time, ordinary people struggle to survive in a society coming apart.
Strange things have been happening to this reviewer recently. As he types away on the keyboard to complete this review, he is also coughing profusely. Yes - profusely. This is the reason why he thinks people around him at the preview of this Steven Soderbergh directed movie were staring. Yes – staring. This sickly columnist doesn’t blame these concerned looking folks. After all, they were in the middle of a movie about an unknown airborne virus that is wiping out humans faster than one can imagine.
Soderbergh’s latest work is a thriller film centered on the threat posed by a lethal disease and an international team of doctors contracted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to deal with the fast spreading outbreak. As the world fights against time to find a vaccine to battle the virus, fear breaks out in the disintegrating society.
If there’s one person who can bring together an ensemble of A listers to star in the same movie, it is Soderbergh, the man behind Traffic (2000), Full Frontal (2002), and not forgetting the very chic Ocean’s Trilogy (2001, 2004, 2007), Here, the Oscar winning director has gotten not one, not two, but three Academy Award Best Actresses to play different roles in the film. Marion Cotillard (La Vie en Rose), Gwyneth Paltrow (Shakespeare in Love) and Kate Winslet (The Reader) are just some of the big names to watch out for in the movie. Other well known names in the ensemble piece include Matt Damon, Laurence Fishburne, Jude Law, Elliot Gould and John Hawkes. Audiences in this part of the world would recognise Hong Kong’s Josie Ho and Chui Tien You, as well as Singapore’s very own Chin Han.
But let’s not allow big names to get in the way. The focus here is how a virus can strike so suddenly and silently that the human race can be wiped out within a matter of months. You may remember the harrowing memories that were SARS and H1N1, and this potent film is a stark reminder how vulnerable we are to these unknown attacks. Soderbergh sends shudders down his viewers’ spines by showing how the things we touch (did you know that we can touch our own faces 2000-3000 a day?) can actually be very dangerous. By transporting us from urban living rooms and jam packed public transport to sanitised medical laboratories and crowded rural villages, the film reminds us no one is safe when an outbreak occurs.
With a very agreeable runtime of 107 minutes, this slickly shot production brings us around the world to cities like Atlanta, Chicago, Minneapolis, Dubai, the United Kingdom and Hong Kong. The vexing music score by Cliff Martinez and the well paced editing by Stephen Mirrione also add to the impressive production value of the film.
The screenplay written by Scott Z Burns is complemented by the fine performances of the film’s ensemble. Each and every one of the star studded cast delivers an impressive, if not, brief performance. Without giving away too much, let’s just say one Oscar Best Actress will leave you dumbfounded with her unfortunate death minutes into the movie.
As the film ends with the revelation of how this fictitious virus came about, you would leave the theatre, cautious of what you touch and the people you come in contact with. Also, as this review comes to an end, this unwell columnist can only wish that he survives this illness to pen another review in the near future.
(A highly recommended thriller that is also a harrowing reminder of the vulnerability of the human race)
Review by John Li