‘Contagion’ Review: A Mostly-Thrilling Examination of Human Hysteria
The plot of Contagion is hardly original. Hollywood has produced many “virus outbreak” films over the past few decades. Few of them, however, are as fascinating to watch unfold as Contagion is. The plot moves quickly as we see the virus from its origins and how a lot of different pieces fall in place to create global chaos.
The movie brings together several A-list actors who each resemble a different aspect of the disease and how it spreads. Matt Damon represents the everyday citizens feeling the effects of the virus. Jude Law represents the media and how they can cause panic all on their own. Laurence Fishburne shows how the government may try to downplay this event to the public eye. Gwyneth Paltrow shows how quickly a disease of this magnitude can spread in such arbitrary ways. Kate Winslet is the main person we see trying to contain the disease. Then there is Marion Cotillard, who shows how the disease affects countries that don’t necessarily have the privileges that America has. . All six actors give performances that feel genuine for the situation that their characters are in. Their roles are written into the plot perfectly as we get just enough of each character and what they represent for the tragic events occurring on-screen.
The first thing we hear is appropriately a cough; and it does not let up from there. The camera continuously focuses on every touch and every possible way that the virus spreads. Its haunting to see things we do without thinking every day be the cause for millions of deaths. There is never a point in Contagion that I said, considering the circumstances, “this could never happen”.
Unfortunately, the movie has one glaring problem: the ending is not within the tone of the first two acts. This is partially because the finale takes place over three months after the rest of the movie. There are satisfying moments that tie up loose ends, but I couldn’t help but feel that in those three months there were some interesting things that the filmmakers could have focused on instead of glossing over. The shift in tone is incredibly awkward and with having so much time pass without warning is pretty unsatisfying. The final scene, which I won’t talk about here, does make up for some of this as it brings the movie back to the paranoia of the first two acts in a brief yet revealing conclusion.
Contagion is a surprise for both this time of year and this sub-genre amongst thrillers. It shows all aspects of how humans would react to an epidemic like this in a way that isn’t too convoluted and flows at a heart-racing pace. You will be on the edge of your seat until the awkward time jump that doesn’t quite ruin the movie but certainly hurts it from being a potential classic within “virus outbreak” films. (*** out of 4)