Contagion proves to be contagiously good

Director Steven Soderbergh has demonstrated to the world that he has the ability to work with a star-studded ensemble cast through such films as “Traffic” and “Ocean’s Eleven.”

His latest effort, “Contagion,” is another example of this, with a cast that includes Matt Damon, Gwyneth Paltrow, Marion Cotillard, Jude Law, Laurence Fishburne and Kate Winslet. “Contagion,” like other Soderbergh films before it, includes multiple subplots covering multiple characters who are all involved in the same narrative.

But, Soderbergh hasn’t created anything this fresh and thrilling in his career until this film, which is about a deadly contagious disease spreading throughout the world and society’s reaction to it.

“Contagion” may sound like a boring documentary whose content overflows with scientific data and uninteresting interviews with medical professionals, but it is in fact a gripping thriller about society collapsing from a global epidemic.

The story begins with Beth Emhoff (Paltrow), who is on a business trip in Hong Kong. After she returns home to Minneapolis, she begins to experience severe flu symptoms. One morning, she suffers a seizure, much to the shock of her husband Mitch Emhoff (Damon). A short time after arriving at the hospital, she dies.

A doctor tells a bewildered Mitch of the news, explaining that the medical team doesn’t know what caused her death, only to generally point out that it was an unknown disease that inflicted her.

The same disease kills their son too, as Mitch comes home to find out. Only Mitch, who is revealed to be immune to the disease, and his daughter remain standing in the family.

A few more outbreaks of the disease occurr and a global epidemic is unleashed, spreading fear throughout the world. The medical community reacts to this and attempts to figure out a solution to the outbreak.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention, headed by Dr. Ellis Cheever (Fishburne), struggle to find a vaccination for the disease as thousands die per day. Work is also being done to quarantine the disease as medical professionals race to find a cure.

Having a star-studded cast rarely works in cinema, with the main reason being that it takes the focus off the narrative and spends too much time wrapped up in subplots without advancing the plot.

Few directors can pull it off, but in “Contagion,” it works. Soderbergh was able to flawlessly weave several subplots into one single narrative piece while not abandoning the central plot, which revolves around this global epidemic that is wrecking society.

The film echoes what happened with the real life swine flu epidemic that broke out a couple years ago.

Obviously, the movie’s version of its own epidemic is greatly amplified, but it shows how society might react if a similar outbreak were to occur in real life.

As mentioned previously, this type of film really hasn’t been done before, so it’s hard to compare it to other films.

But for a first in its own subgenre, “Contagion” is nicely done through a well-developed script by Scott Burns and strong acting performances.


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