Contagion (2011) – Review by Garrett Collins

This film may have been my cure. The cure for what, you ask? I have been pretty vocal in other reviews about my discontent for the work of Steven Soderbergh. With his constant flashbacks, frantic camera angles, and disjointed way of telling a story, he has a style of filming that I have never been able to get a grasp on, and I have always thought that both Traffic and the entire Oceans series were completely overrated. However, once I heard he was taking on a movie about a spreading virus, I thought that there might have been a chance that he had found something to sink his teeth into and could benefit from his style of filming. After all, what is more frantic than a virus that spreads from person to person?

The film starts off with a cough belonging to Gwyneth Paltrow, and you know from that point on that there is no one in this cast that’s going to be safe. And, in true Soderbergh tradition, he surrounds his film with a hell of a cast. There’s Matt Damon, who plays Paltrow’s husband and father to their daughter. He does an excellent job being his daughter’s protector, and shows once again why he is one of the best actors in the business. There’s also Marion Cotillard, Jude Law, Laurence Fishburne, Kate Winslet, Elliot Gould, and Bryan Cranston, among others. What Soderbergh does very well here is get great performances out of everybody involved. From Damon, I would expect nothing less. But, after lingering about on TV’s CSI (a show I have never been a fan of) and a very oddly cast role in Predators, Fishburne is better than ever here. Cool, calm, and a bit too smart for his own good, Fishburne’s role is one that will probably see him have resurgence in his film career. There is also a very interesting turn by Law, as Alex, a blogger who may or may not have a cure. After being the talk of the town in the early 2000s and then subsequently probably suffered from both his personal and professional life being overexposed, Law stayed in the trenches for awhile and now emerges in this film as an actor to once again be watched. His role teeters on both sides, and you really do not know if he is out for his own good or those of the people around him. A great role by an always great actor.

Winslet and Cotillard, however, do not have the benefit of having their roles be too beefy. Winslet does fine in the small role she has, but Cotillard’s role was really one of mystery to me. She sort of disappears in the middle of the film after having probably the most interesting of all the characters’ situations and doesn’t really factor into the finale of the film. However, I will also say that this is probably the most I have enjoyed a Soderbergh film since Out of Site 15 years ago. His pallet tones of red, green, and yellow really enhance the danger factor of the virus and, with this film, has made the most linear story he has ever told. Always threatening to retire from film, I am usually the one wanting to give him a push in that direction. But, if these are the types of films he wants to be making, then he should probably stick around a little longer.

All in all, a pretty darn good effort from all involved in this one. The script, by Scott Z. Burns, is excellent, even including a 911 call that outlines the symptoms very nicely. And, while it probably would have been more interesting to linger on the human side of the story less than the science side, Soderbergh keeps the film nice and tight at a little over an hour and forty minutes. Therefore, making me want more, instead of making me want NO more, which is a pretty big compliment for me. Thanks for the cure, Steve. Now, about that Haywire…….



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