Review: Contagion (2011)

With my career I’d be one of the first to bite the dust!

Written By: Scott Z. Burns
Directed By: Steven Soderbergh

The realities of Contagion are evident in every second of the film. I’m not a believer in the idea of humanity as a driving force for good. I tend to fall more into the camp that during an end game scenario humanity will devolve into a more primitive state. The drive to survive will supersede most notions of good will. That being said I’d like to think that the descent into chaos and the rupturing of what we consider civilized society will not be immediate. In that sense I loved the way that Contagion went about showing humanity slowly turning on itself. The movie slowly built a forward momentum that by the midway point was out of control. I felt myself in the same boat as the characters in the film, the events were beyond my control and there was nothing I could do to stop the spread of the virus.

Contagion succeeds in building an atmosphere of chaos. The momentum that the film is able to achieve is off the charts. However, the methods used to gain said momentum may also be the biggest detriment to the film. We don’t get to know any of the characters in Contagion. We get to know the world they live in, the disease they are fighting, and the trials they must face. What we don’t get is any actual time with the characters so that the events in the film matter more than just events taking place on a screen. Contagion would have benefited from a slight pruning of the cast and a deeper focus on the remaining characters.

The lack of investment I had in the characters found in Contagion did keep me at arm’s length from the film. I could feel that distance just as much as I could feel the chaos that enveloped the characters by the halfway point of the film. I enjoyed the way that the events of the film spiraled out of control and how the chaos felt inescapable. But, I would have enjoyed the film more and its leanings towards horror would have had more heft had I been able to connect with the characters.

As it stands Contagion is a well made film, a clinical thriller that operates with an understated intensity. It could have been more intense with better developed characters, but that wasn’t the film I was given. What Steven Soderbergh saw fit to give his audience was a refreshingly frank take on the end of the world via disease (I know that the world doesn’t actually end in Contagion, but the aim of the film to be an end of the world picture is quite clear). The film plows forward in an unrelenting manner and in doing so it never allows the viewer to take a breath from the destruction of society that they are witnessing. I had fun with Contagion, but with characters I could invest in I know that Contagion could have been so much more.

Rating:

***

Cheers,
Bill

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