Writer: Scott Z. Burns
Starring: Laurence Fishburne
Rating: *****A thriller about the spread of a fatal disease, that is gripping and enthralling the whole way through.
Release Date: 21/10/11
Release Date: 21/10/11
The film opens with Beth Emhoff (Paltrow) sat in an airport talking to her husband on the phone. As she talks it becomes apparent she is unwell, and it's here we are shown how quickly and easily something like this can spread. Whether it is the nuts she is eating from the bar or some papers she signs and sends off, it spreads easily and soon becomes a worldwide pandemic. A few days later she dies from the disease along with her son and she leaves her husband, Mitch (Damon), alone and eventually in quarantine. Mitch soon finds out he is immune and he and his daughter become trapped in the city, which has been put on lock-down, and are forced to wait it out whilst dealing with their loss. Paltrow and Damon give convincing and brilliant performances and instantly set up the film perfectly in the first few scenes. The emotional journey Damon takes the character on is superb, and the flashbacks to when Beth was still alive give more insight into her story and also the origins of the disease. Which is a nice way to learn, rather than being bombarded with information all at once.
Dr. Ellis Cheever (Fishburne) is the character that many of the others turn to in the movie, and he is the head of the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention. He is clearly scared and extremely worried about the outbreak and is at a loss for what to do. He has never experienced a disease this violent and fast spreading and is trying to keep it together whilst watching the world and his colleagues crumble around him. Fishburne is brilliant as the tough boss character, but beneath the facade he is able to really show how vulnerable and scared he is and emotes it perfectly. Dr. Leonora Orantes (Cotillard) is sent to Hong Kong to try and work out how and why the disease started and where it originated. She soon realises that Beth was the first infected and therefore was the person to start the spreading. Whilst investigating she is kidnapped and used as leverage to get hold of the vaccines for a local village. Cotillard, like Fishburne, is forced to hold it together under the pressure, and really comes into her own during the kidnapping scenes. The idea of people being so desperate they would kidnap an innocent woman for help, shows the seriousness of it all, and Cotillard is able to portray how it must feel perfectly.
Alan Krumwiede (Law) is a greedy journalist who lies about recovering from the disease using 'forsythia' in order to get money from the companies supplying it. He is an opportunist and does what he can to cheat his way through life. Law creates a really interesting person, because he contrasts so beautifully with the other characters. While the characters are looking for cures and reasons, he is look for opportunities to gain riches and fortune. He represents the part of society that loots during riots, or mugs someone that is injured. The greedy opportunists who have no conscience or guilt, and Law plays it brilliantly. Dr. Erin Mears (Winslet) is an Epidemic Intelligence Service officer, who is sent to Beth's home town to start the trace-back and further investigations. She is hardworking and puts everything into her work, but in the end she contracts the disease and this leads to her demise. Winslet is able to emote the panic and worry over the situation wonderfully, and you can relate to her because you imagine that is how it must feel, and she makes it so easy for you to believe it.
With such a brilliant cast and superb director (Soderbergh) you can't go wrong and this film never does go wrong. It is beautifully performed, and the clinical and cold direction actually makes it far more believable and intriguing to watch, both visually and mentally. What is so fascinating, and in a way scary, about this film is that it could, and has, happened. The way the characters deal with it represent a different person that we probably know in our lives, making it far more relatable and honest. Contagion comes to cinema's in just over a month, and I think it's filled with so much potential and it really is a contender in the coming awards season. I definitely think you should try and catch it when it's released, as it really is an eye opening experience.