Review: CONTAGION (2011) | Casey's Movie Mania | Movie Reviews, Features & Others

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Review: CONTAGION (2011)


RATING: 3/5

At the first glance, a disaster movie filled with lots of A-list casts is simply hard to ignore. What's more, we are talking about Steven Soderbergh here, the director who last made two successful all-star ensembles movies -- TRAFFIC (2000) and OCEAN'S ELEVEN (2001). In his latest movie called CONTAGION, I was hoping him to pull off the same dramatic flair he did before in TRAFFIC. Make no mistake, Soderbergh's take on a viral outbreak isn't your typical sensationalistic Hollywood gloss but rather something subdued and perfectly grounded. Such approach might alienate most mainstream viewers seeking big thrills, but those who are game for something uniquely different -- CONTAGION is surprisingly good movie to catch, uh, I mean, to watch for. But other than that, it's hardly the kind of TRAFFIC-like cinematic sensation.




The movie opens in Day 2, where we are introduce to Beth Emhoff (Gwyneth Paltrow), a businesswoman on her way home to Minneapolis from Hong Kong. During that time, she becomes sick and it doesn't take long before her health condition declines in an alarming rate. After died unexpectedly caused by sudden seizure and unknown virus, her frustrating husband, Mitch (Matt Damon) starts to freak out. But luckily he is immune to the spreading virus.

Soon the virus, dubbed as MEV-1, is seen spreading across the globe and an increasing rate of dead people are recorded from time to time. Head of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Dr. Ellis Cheever (Laurence Fishburne) has his hands full trying every right measures to sustain the viral outbreak. In the meantime, his representative, Dr. Erin Mears (Kate Winslet) sets out to prepare quarantine facilities for the sick people.

Elsewhere, the World Health Organization (WHO) sends Dr. Leonora Orantes (Marion Cotillard) to Asia, particularly Hong Kong, to identify the source of the virus where she is lead to a Chinese victim named Li Fai (Tien You Chui).

Then there's Alan Krumwiede (Jude Law), a cocky English blogger based in San Francisco, has particularly opposed whatever decision he heard from the media given by the U.S. government regarding about the viral outbreak. He thinks there is some sort of hidden conspiracy between governments and pharmaceutical companies to hide the truth from the people. So he goes on a one-man crusade to uncover the truth.

Likewise, Soderbergh handles his ensemble cast well enough to hold one's attention, with subtle performances all around. The downside of his all-star cast that they lack the certain emotional punch to make us care about them deeply. On the other hand, Scott Z. Burns's supposedly exciting screenplay is lackluster. Especially given its topical subject, I was surprised Burns prefers to keep things as generic as possible.

Still, CONTAGION remains compulsively watchable. And that alone I was surprised. Soderbergh, who goes by a pseudonym name of Peter Andrews, brilliantly used the Red's new 5K Epic-X "Tattoo" digital cameras to shoot his picture with such visual intimacy it's simply an eye-candy sensation. Even scenes in the mundane-looking office and lab looks visually appealing. Rounding up from his beautiful cinematography, is Cliff Martinez's pulsating electronic score. His score is so memorable it's worth the price of admission alone.

By the way, if you are wondering how come the synopsis for this movie starts with "Day 2", you just have to stay until the end to find out what happens in "Day 1".

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