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"Contagion": A Great Thriller That May Have Bitten Off More Than It Could Chew

Christine Weitbrecht |
September 9, 2011 | 10:58 p.m. PDT

Staff Reporter

'Contagion' is in theaters now. (Image courtesy to Warner Bros.)
'Contagion' is in theaters now. (Image courtesy to Warner Bros.)
Before I went to see "Contagion" I had already heard from other critics that the storyline was quite disjointed and bumpy at times. As it turned out, they were not mistaken.

In "Contagion," several story archs end abruptly and not all lose ends are tied up. I blame this on director Steven Soderbergh’s frantic attempt to give us a big picture of what would happen worldwide if a deadly disease with no immediate cure broke out in times of the Internet and frequent global travel. "Contagion" tries to be everything at once – the small man’s story, the scientist heroes’ story, a sociological perspective, and an international conspiracy thriller. Character after character is introduced, and while this leads to an impressive line-up of world-class actors, it also makes it extremely hard to keep up with and become invested in each characters’ story.

In "Contagion" a cross-over between two viruses leads to a break-out of a global epidemic. The flu-like symptoms develop rapidly, and kill their victims within the span of two days. Thanks to global travel, the highly contagious virus spreads around the world in a matter of days, and scientists and governments are scrambling to find a treatment for the disease and to prevent mass panics. 

Matt Damon, Jennifer Ehle, and Laurence Fishburne are definitely the main catalysts of the story, and the three protagonists audiences will care about most. Kate Winslet also offers a great performance as always, but her appearance as an American scientist trying to trace the outbreak of the virus is cut short throughout the first half of the movie, after which she simply disappears from the plot without any closure to her personal storyline. 

One of the factors that make "Contagion" extremely engaging is its high level of credibility. Scientific facts are explained in enough detail to make them plausible, and the long road from identifying a virus to finding a working cure is represented faithfully. At the same time, the social and political aspects of a disastrous global epidemic are also picked upon with great realism, making the film a great case study and keeping the viewer wondering what they would do in a situation like this one. The tone of the movie balances tragedy with hope, and suspense with an even narrative pace. 

Overall, "Contagion" is definitely a movie worth seeing, and stands out from most other movies this year through its subject matter, realism, and narrative complexity. The film benefits from its high-caliber actors to the extent that it cannot even make adequate use of all the talents it harbors. The only blemish "Contagion" possesses is its disjointed plot, but ultimately, all crucial matters are resolved at least. I strongly recommend "Contagion" to anyone looking for the next good movie after "The Help" and promise that it will be well worth your time and money.  

"Contagion" is in cinemas now. 

Produced by: Participant Media, Imagenation Abu Dhabi

Distributed by: Warner Bros. 

Directed by Steven Soderbergh. 

Starring: Matt Damon, Kate Winslet, Jennifer Ehle, Laurence Fishburne, Gwyneth Paltrow, Marion Cotillard, Jude Law

Rating: PG-13

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