Steve Soderbergh's Contagion will have you on the edge of your seats during the first half of the film. It is the story of an airborne virus which appears incurable and becomes a global pandemic. While this is a movie, it is a possibility. It also addresses how the nation was misled by Dr. Ellis Cheever (Larry Fishburne) the head of the Center for Disease Control (CDC) as to the dangers of the virus.
During 9/11 former New Jersey governor and EPA Director Christine Todd Whitman went on national television and swore the dust from the trade towers was not toxic. Recently on a CNN special, Sanjay Gupta, who appears briefly in this film, showed a report about the health dangers of the almost toxic dust. Today these particles inhaled by First Responders are stored in plastic containers in a vault. Just what was in this dust authorities say they will never know for sure. The dust clung to everyone, everything. Imagine if this dust contained a virus. Wearing those masks was not a protection. The government told the firefighters the dust was safe. Later hundreds of firemen began coughing what was known as a world trade center cough. "We should have called it World Trade Center Lung Disease." This made me think of the courage of 9/11 First Responders. What set in was an inability to breathe. Lung use decreased 40 percent.
Contagion, is a non-stop terror about how to lick the feelings of slow suffocation. The virus is determined to be caused by "The wrong pig meeting up with the wrong bat."
Alan Krumweide (Jude Law ) plays a conspiracy blogger who is watching the real virus spread as opposed to the CDC's press accounts, which are suppressing the truth and adds a touch of today's power of the internet to fight disease. Dr. Ellis Cheever (Larry Fishburne) shouts, "If I could throw your computer in jail, I would."
Amazed at the slow pace of the CDC, Epidemic Officer Dr. Erin Mears (Kate Winslett) exclaims, "Congress is trying to find out how to work on-line."
What I found missing in Contagion was one or two central characters I could care about throughout the film, though my favorite was Judd Law who had spunk and kept the film moving when it bogged down after its opening thrust. There are so many stars Gwyneth Paltrow Matt Damon, Lawrence Fishburne, Elliot Gould, Kate Winslet, Marion Cotillard, Jennifer Ehle and Judd Law my caring was split and alas my focus.
Dr. Orantes of the World Health Organization (Marion Cotillard) after trying to save the children of a town literally vanishes off into the jungles of Hong Kong to care for the tribe of natives and is not heard from again. Writer Scott Burns forgot the viewer cares about characters we are made to care about, but who are dropped off and erased without a reason save a film's length. Also in the beginning of the film Matt Damon's stepson dies of the virus and he barely sheds a tear. His grief is not shown and I felt cheated because of this.
The cinematography is spot on, showing a Hong Kong crowded to the point of intoxication which would threaten the spread of any virus. The music is non invasive but at moments has just the right impact.
Contagion is a moving movie with an ending that has a bit of a message, but seems pasted on for effect. How to end a film about the destruction of the world from a virus, is difficult short of having a president like Ronald Reagan elected who didn't give a rat's ass about a cure for AIDS which left untreated could have destroyed the earth's population as was threatened in Contagion.