“Contagion” Infects Audiences with Fear and Paranoia

Contagion Infects Audiences with Fear and Paranoia



Typically, apocalyptic themed films involving infections and deadly diseases will include the dead rising from their graves after the onset of the sickness.   The fact that Contagion leaves this supernatural aspect out of the story is what gives it its chilling plausibility.  A global pandemic is absolutely in the realm of possibility, and with recent scares like the spread of the H1N1 virus, the first twenty minutes of the movie seems all too familiar: a sudden sweeping panic, rumors spreading across the country, a rush to the supermarkets.  However, Contagion takes it one step further and places humanity on the brink of destruction; all from the viewpoints of a multitude of characters facing their own responsibilities during a perilous time.

The obvious positive to notice first about this movie is its star studded cast including Matt Damon as a parent struggling to keep his daughter and himself alive, Kate Winslet and Laurence Fishburne as a pair of CDC workers trying to figure out and fight the disease, and Jude Law as a free-lance journalist trying to root out corruption in a government in shambles.   Each character comes with their respective side stories, making for one big, however sometimes disconnected plot.  These characters clearly weren’t created because they mesh well together to create one coherent story, but instead because they give a chance to show the many different viewpoints of a situation like this.  There are different responsibilities that come with, for example, a middle class father living in suburban America trying to keep his family safe, and a government official trying to maintain structure in his country.  At two different ends of the social spectrum, they make for two equally interesting stories.

With Gwyneth Paltrow sitting in an airport in quickly declining health on “Day 2” of the epidemic, the first shot of the movie makes it clear it won’t take much time before it jumps into the action.  The intensity only builds from there, as not soon after, the virus is seen spreading across the world killing all in its path.  The way the movie is filmed almost gives it a documentary-like feel, and the reoccurring instrumentals in the background are simple but fitting.  They always start out soft and quiet, building as the scenes progress, with the intensity of the scenes themselves usually building along with it.  Director Steven Soderbergh did an impressive job with the overall presentation of the film.

At the very least, this movie will make you well aware of your hygiene for the couple days after you see it.  The idea of an Earth nearing the end of human population has been examined many times, but never quite like this.  What separates this movie from other like it is its simplicity.  What it breaks down to is humanity versus the disease, no obviously villainous characters or antagonists.  In fact, the disease itself more or less takes that role as every character in the film has the common task of combating it.  The question the movie continuously asks is who will it be to die next?  It’s questions like these are sure to keep an audience interested for a movie’s entirety.