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“Contagion” Movie Review (2011)

Article by SisterRoboto of

Written and Directed by Steven Soderbergh and Scott Burns (The Informant)

Contagion follows the rapid progress of a lethal airborne virus that kills within days. As the fast-moving epidemic grows, the worldwide medical community races to find a cure and control the panic that spreads faster than the virus itself. At the same time, ordinary people struggle to survive in a society coming apart.

“It starts with a cough. It ends with death on an unimaginable scale.”

Have you ever sneezed in public?  Pushed an elevator button? Opened a public door? Of course you have, we all have.  This movie will make you think twice the next time you touch anything outside your own home. I was impressed when I first watched the trailer for Contagion. It looked like a crazy thriller that was genuinely terrifying in its depiction of something too close to reality. Think of it as a current day “Outbreak” with Dustin Hoffman and Renee Russo.  It’s stuffed with A-list actors including Matt Damon, Gwyneth Paltrow, Jude Law, Marion Cotillard, Kate Winslet, and Laurence Fishburne.  While fighting a life-threatening bacteria, all of these big-named stars are running around frowning and spitting out big words like “pathognomonic,” “fomites,” “paramyxovirus,” and “phylogentic”.  Huh, say that again please?

The most frightening thing about this movie is that we can never physically see this silent killer that they are fighting against, as one character notes early in the movie.  You gather from the first few seconds of the film when Soderbergh shoots very tight close-ups of a hand on a bus pole and a bowl of cocktail peanuts in a bar, it’s anything and everything we come in contact with on a daily basis that’s terrifying. I’ll guarantee you one thing, before this movie is over, you will stop unconsciously touching your face. Contagion is not all that disturbing, except perhaps on an intellectual level. Because of the virus’s complex and ever-changing chemical make-up, not to mention increasingly rapid spread time, this becomes a race against time for scientists to save humanity… in the most drawn out and depressing way possible.

Although this is not your typical “horror” movie, at the heart of Contagion is the fear of a disease that can send the world into chaos.  This scenario, which seems extreme, is actually dangerously realistic.  As soon as you hear Gwenyth Paltrow cough, you know where this movie is headed. The hero in Contagion is the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (run by Fishburne) and the medical professionals working behind the scenes to identify, treat and contain the disease.  They are finally able to replicate the strand of virus and make an antibody to mass distribute to the population.

Contagion’s trailer would have you believe it’s a nail-biter; its enjoyment is mostly intelligent ideologies with no emotion.  It is actually a slow, downer of a film that is only partially thrilling. Yes, there is a panicked tone that carries for a good portion, but it never seems to climax for the viewers satisfaction. It jumps around with subplots, flashbacks and random characters and in some instances, you lose what’s going on entirely. It seems unable to settle on any one ideal and as a result, feels very all over the place.

The acting by Matt Damon and Jude Law was great, but these actors were very underutilized. The film certainly made me think about germs, diseases, and government cover ups, which are all too real.  I also really enjoyed the last scene and how the movie came full circle. Overall though, I felt like it could have been better. It was worth the dollar that I paid to be entertained for a couple hours to see it, but definitely not one of my favorites.

As I sat down to watch Contagion I was excited, when it was over I was a little disappointed.  The most shocking scenes can all be viewed on the trailers.  Regardless of how real this story could be, it’s overly slow, and at the worst of times, even a bit down right boring. Rather than watch the entire film, It may be more enjoyable to just watch the trailer on loop.  Not a bad idea!


About SIster Roboto (21 Articles)
I am a graphic designer, mother, and lover of all things scary. I enjoy a delicious beer and the company of my lunatic friends in my downtime. I am a horror fanatic at heart and if something can give me that intense feeling of fear, shock, or disgust... I'd like to share it with the world.

3 Comments on “Contagion” Movie Review (2011)

  1. I agree with your review. To me this movie was alright, but I was expecting much more. I did love at the end how they showed exactly how it happened but otherwise I was pretty disappointed.

  2. The lesson I got from this movie: Don’t cheat on Matt Damon or you will fucking die.

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