I have to say, the microbiologist in me loved this movie. Contagion feels like this is how things would very likely go down if such a deadly virus were ever to be released up the world. It felt very authentic, and I don’t mean just the science behind it, I mean the ways in which people would react to it as well. We see the pandemic through the eyes of regular people who have lost family members, through epidemiologists trying to track down the origin of the disease, through high ranking members of the CDC, National Security officials, independent researchers, and free lance journalists.
Contagion is shot in a really raw style which makes it feel almost documentary-like. This is both a plus and minus of the film. It definitely adds to the authenticity of the story through this tone, but it also makes it a slightly impersonal story at the same time. However, I am glad that this wasn’t over-sentimentalized or sensationalized, otherwise we would probably just have a copy of 1995’s Outbreak. Not that Outbreak is bad, but by staying away from classic Hollywood formula, Contagion is able to be its own beast and distance itself from the film they knew this would be compared to.
This movie also scores big with its cast. I really liked Lawrence Fishbourne here as a high-up CDC guy, as well as Jennifer Ehle as one of his top researchers. Kate Winslet was also excellent here, sinking into her role as a socially awkward epidemiologist. Matt Damon did a nice job of providing the emotional core of the film (what there is of it anyway), and it was also nice to see Elliot Gould and Brian Cranston here as well. The only storyline which didn’t work for me was the Marion Coutillard story.
I also thought that it was neat in the way that the movie was book-ended. Soderberg decided to start the movie with a cough through a black screen, then a shot of Gweneth Paltrow and the subtitle “Day 2”. Already out interest is captured. And the ending of the movie brings this back around again nicely. Very cool stuff.