Sunday, September 11, 2011

Film Review: Contagion (2011)


"This flu-thing is kinda spooky."

Ok...let's make things clear here. Contagion isn't technically a horror film. It is a Sci-Fi/Thriller with elements of Action and Drama. So, the Sci-Fi/Thriller category makes it eligible for Film Deviant territory. And technically...I'm scared to death of these kinds of premises...so, for me...it's a horror film. Ghosts, demons, zombies, etc...I can usually deal with those supernatural things. Even serial killers and slashers have kinda lost their scaryness to me these days. But, anything having to do with the threat of a virus wiping out the human race usually scares the hell out of me. Especially given the fact that I had that H1N1 virus a couple of years ago. That freaked me out big time. So...Contagion is a horror film of sorts.

It made me squirm and twitch the whole time. I even washed my fuckin' hands 3 times after the film. Not since I was 11 has a film scared me to the point of being physically paranoid. Contagion does a fine job of making you feel like you gotta run out of the theater and buy a case of Purell. And it does have its moments of body gore that do a good job of filling you with unease.


Let's talk about Steven Soderbergh for a moment. The man can pretty much direct anything he wants. I love the way Soderbergh tells a story. He's got a way of setting up tension and suspense that makes his films so unique and enthralling. And the way he employs every character in his films. He's got a keen sense for establishing every character and giving them the heart and soul required for the story he's telling. Every character has his or her own plight. Shit...even John Hawkes (a brilliant character actor), who only has a couple scenes in the entire film, is given his own world to live in. Soderbergh is a true actor's director and even the most technical director can stand to learn a few things from his ability to pull great performances from his actors. He's almost like Tarantino in that way...except Tarantino usually relies on his writing to pull his actors' performances out.

Speaking of actors...Contagion is chock full of 'em. I was almost half expecting to see George Clooney turn up as a doctor. Jude Law and Matt Damon are stand-outs in the film. I especially felt bad for Damon's character who pretty much goes through the entire film as the man with the most burden to bear. Law is great as the conspiracy-seeking blogger who walks that thin line of shining light on the truth and cashing in on that same truth. Gwyneth Paltrow is regulated to being sick. Lawrence Fishburne needs to cut back on the Ho Ho's. Kate Winslet is great.


This film has its many layers and while the main threat is that of an airborne virus killing a large chunk of the world's populace...it is ultimately mankind who becomes the main threat. I mean...seriously, people??! Is this how the world would become in the event of an out of control killer virus?? Selfish, angry mobs of assholes fucking each other over for limited supplies of rations?? I'd like to hope that we are a much more evolved species. However, common sense tells me that mankind is the real virus that the world needs a cure for. Perhaps that's just me mixing my own psycho-babble into a review of a film about a mutating virus threatening the world's population. In any case, there's quite a bit of material to debate over when the film's credits role and most films don't allow that these days. Especially in a world of brooding CGI superheroes over-crowding the cineplex.

I guess the only real flaw that Contagion possesses is that it has nothing new to bring to the cinematic table. I mean, Romero explored these same social elements in his earlier films. And this is almost a kind of quasi-remake of Wolfgang Peterson's Outbreak  if you really think about it. All the government cover-ups, A-list actors, CDC vs. Virus and social commentary stuff are all present as was in that 1995 film. So, there's nothing really new to see here.

Contagion is a good film. It's not really ground-breaking or original...but, it is a good example of what a great director with indie roots can do with a dark, real-world premise such as this. I'm on my second bottle of Purell since posting this review.


4 out of 5




"Blogging isn't writing...it's graffiti with punctuation." - Dr. Ian Sussman (Elliott Gould)

That quote is actually from the film...I may use it as the description for our blog.


Thanks for reading,

bryan.


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