A woman arrives back in America, returning home from a business trip to Hong Kong. She talks to her husband on a cell phone, clearly running a fever and coughing as she speaks. Others who were present at the same restaurant and casino also travel to their different destinations and unwittingly infect those along the way.
What at first seems like an outbreak of a flu virus, quickly escalates into a world-wide pandemic of a new, virulent and deadly disease.
Experts at the United States Center for Disease Control race to first discover exactly what the disease is before they can then develop a cure, as society crumbles and some struggling to survive take to looting and murder.
This is a vastly superior movie to others in the disease outbreak and mass-panic-ensues genre. Far better than the trashy Outbreak (1995), and reminiscent in places of The Andromeda Strain – a classic from 1970 that remains chilling in its clinical realism, Contagion is another extremely well-made and bleakly realistic thriller from director Steven Soderbergh, who also made Solaris, The Informant!, Ocean’s Eleven, Traffic and Erin Brockovich … among many others.
The main cast: Gwyneth Paltrow, Matt Damon, Jude Law, Laurence Fishburne, Marion Cotillard, John Hawkes, Kate Winslet, Elliott Gould, Jennifer Ehle, Chin Han, all give restrained and excellent performances. There is tension, emotion, drama, death, and tragedy on show, but it is acted sincerely without plunging into melodrama and over-sentimentality. The main plot and sub-plots of the different characters and situations are intricately weaved without leaving any loose plot threads.
After the end credits have rolled, the viewer is left with the feeling as if they have sat through a documentary retold as a drama, making what they have just seen all the more frighteningly credible … which it is!
I watched this movie in a packed cinema auditorium, filled with popcorn-munchers, drink-slurpers, seat-shufflers, all of which I could tolerate during the running time. But what got me during this particular screening was my heightened awareness to those who were coughing … !!!
Don’t be surprised if you find yourself thinking twice before you plunge your hand into that free bowl of peanuts at the side of the bar, or getting OCD about washing your hands after this one!
To those who may experience coughs, shivers, sweats, sneezes, et al … please … please … PLEASE!!! … cover your mouth and nose and wash your hands! How hard can it be? Better still, stay inside, wrap up warm, drink plenty of water, and stay put until you’re well again.