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Contagion: An exciting killer-virus thriller that respects science. A+

November 6, 2011

Steven Soderbergh’s Contagion is a steady-paced virus movie in the Outbreak mould, but without the usual Hollywoodisation typical of disaster movies. The film is packed full of A-list stars yet features appreciative nods to hard science and appeals to reason. Incredibly, in this Intelligent Design universe we seem to live in, the film is wonderfully sceptical of populist scaremongering and homeopathic nonsense, while acknowledging the efforts of ordinary scientists working for the Centre for Disease Control and the World Health Organisation. Not very fashionable heh?

The film may be packed with star power but not one of these actors grandstands or chews the scenery and everyone gives unfussy, naturalistic performances that range from grave to efficient. There are also unmanipulative heartwarming moments yet the film presents death with little sentiment and is not afraid to kill off its characters or show them being autopsied.

The film has been called slow-moving but I found the pace relentless, requiring concentration – its a detailed film, heavy on realism and procedure. It doesn”t speak down to the audience and presents scientific concepts simply yet as a matter of course. The film could be termed documentary-like at times, yet it is entirely fictional. The tracing of the origin of the virus backwards is effectively done, and exciting, as is the race for a vaccine.

Compared to recent rubbish like 2012, Contagion is especially notable, showing that disaster films can be for adults i.e. intelligent, spectacular and thrilling without being disasterous and laughable. I imagine the film was more popular with critics than impatient mainstream audiences (it scored 84% on Rottentomatoes) with a few too many sequences in the lab for those used to explosions, brave presidents and other end-of-the-world imagery common to the genre. There is not one irritating character, not even in the hero role (for example John Cusack); no love interest and no teenage brats getting into trouble and endangering everybody. In fact three of the principal scientist characters are women, and not one of them is a romantic interest. Also, the film is not wholly set in the USA, with significant parts in China and other international locations. As such, a most refreshing, topical and worthy afternoon’s entertainment.

Starring Kate Winslet, Laurence Fishburne, Matt Damon, Marion Cottillard, Jude Law, Jennifer Ehle, Gwyneth Paltrow and others.

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One Comment
  1. Konrad permalink

    Anti-Hollywood-recipe; anti-conspiracy-theory-flakes; anti-science-bashing; anti-scientist-stereotyping; anti-making-everything-unrealistic-in-aid-of-pointless-dumbing-down and it DOESN’T end with the USA writing off Mexico’s debt so they will inexplicably allow a zillion Americans to flood across their border and ruin their country, nor with all the non-nerd characters falling in love with each other and living happily ever after. A very refreshing film indeed.

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