Movie Review: Contagion


Zombies are the big thing nowadays. But what if the world went out with a whimper instead of a bang? What if it went out with a cough? It may not have the cool kids cachet of the stumbling dead, but Contagion‘s well thought out scientific underpinnings make it a compelling thriller for the brainy set, those who are aching for a different kind of action movie, or anyone who has a love affair with medical procedural shows.

Cast and Crew Of Contagion

Main Cast:

  • Matt Damon as Mitch Emhoff
  • Kate Winslet as Dr. Ellis Cheever
  • Jude Law as Alan Krumwiede
  • Marion Cotillard as Dr. Leonora Orantes
  • Laurence Fishburne as Ellis Cheever’s superior at the CDC


  • Director: Steven Soderbergh
  • Writer: Scott Z. Burns
  • Producers: Scott Z. Burns, Gregory Jacobs, Michael Shamberg

As the film starts, you hear a cough. Then another, and another. Beth Emhoff, a businesswoman who is returning home to the States from a trip to Hong Kong, isn’t looking so good. That’s pretty damn serious, considering she’s played by Gwyneth Paltrow, a woman that would look good after a 3-day cheesecake and whiskey bender. Anyone who has seen the trailer for this film knows that Beth isn’t recovering from this business trip bug, and quickly other people come down with the illness. Before long, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) are racing against time to stop the pandemic before it’s too late.

The beginning of Contagion is much like the start of Stephen King’s novel The Stand in how it shows just how easy it is to pass along a virus. We see Beth pick up a drink, then put it down. The busboy picks up the empty glass, he grabs onto a bus rail on his way home…and suddenly millions of people are dead or dying. But this film plays down the horror aspect, going instead for a fast-paced thriller focused on how to find a cure while the world is falling apart. Steven Soderbergh (Traffic, Syriana) uses his skill working with an ensemble cast to show many different points of view; from CDC doctors and WHO officials to janitors and families in far-out villages, there is hardly a social demographic that is missed. Writer Scott Z. Burns (The Bourne Ultimatum) amps up the audience’s adrenaline by crafting scenes that show how government, big business and the blogosphere all strive to come out of this smelling like a rose, regardless of the toll it takes on humanity. Meanwhile, humanity ain’t exactly holding hands singing Kumbaya, and scenes with crowds of frightened people pushed to their limits have a frightening ring of truth.

Yes, there are themes here, but they don’t beat you about the head to get you to submit, they slide into your conscious bit by bit as the action progresses. They’re also grounded in common sense; think for yourself, take care of yourself and those you care about, take care of the world. It’s easy to see why H2O Africa Foundation co-founder Matt Damon signed onto this project; it’s a wake-up call cunningly disguised as an action-packed thriller. It’s also easy to see how this film attracted it’s all-star cast, as Soderbergh’s deft touch with subject matter that shoots off in many directions at once, and Burns’ ability to craft a thriller that takes time to let you care about the folks in the thick of it, was probably catnip to these stars. Everyone rises to the occasion, giving performances that are believable in their humanity. Bonus points for getting Dr. Sanjay Gupta to play himself in a cameo piece.

There are problems with any movie that tries to cover such a broad scope, and Congation isn’t immune. Although Paltrow’s character isn’t on screen — alive, anyway — for long, the connection audiences build with her after her Psycho-esque early end gets shattered by a revelation that is wholly unnecessary. And Lawrence Fishburne’s Dr. Ellis Cheever puts himself on the line for someone, and we find out after this storyline is almost entirely played out that someone is Cheever’s wife. But for these flaws there are many more positives. Jude Law’s blogger Alan Krumwiede, who is trying to do the right thing but can’t seem to help being a dick about it. Matt Damon as Beth’s husband, who will stop at nothing to keep his daughter safe. Marion Cotillard as WHO official Dr. Leonora Orantes, a woman that gets a first-hand look at how things are going outside of the big cities. Not everyone lives, but not everyone dies either, and that gives viewers the hope they need to keep rooting for the world to survive.

With cold and flu season hitting us right about now, I’m sure there will be quite a few people who will be a bit more careful this season after seeing this film. Meanwhile, I picked up a bug at the screening, and can’t seem to shake this sore throat. I’m trying not to freak out about it, but after seeing what can happen if a bug gets nasty? I think I’ll be staying in to rest this weekend.

Also Read on Gomovies

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *