Contagion on Blu-ray
If there is any fun to be found in movies about global pandemics, Steven Soderberg was sure to leave it out of Contagion. Perhaps fun isn’t the right word. Maybe, thrills? It’s easy to see when comparing Contagion with, say, 28 Days Later or Blindness. Somehow, Danny Boyle’s world is terrifying in a way that is like a roller coaster. In José Saramago’s novel Blindness (and subsequently in the movie directed by Fernando Meirelles), the terrifying and contagious disease is Blindness. And while both of these stories are serious films, neither of them seemed to capture the dull horror that a true pandemic would be to the modern world. Saramago was more interested in the poetic meaning of a world where society lost its eye site. Boyle was interested in the excitement of such a situation. Soderberg seemed to be interested in bumming me the hell out.
To paint the bleak picture of a world experiencing it’s first serious plague in nearly a hundred years, Soderberg was blessed with an ensemble cast of endless talent. Kate Winslet, John Hawkes, Matt Damon, Jude Law, Gwenyth Paltrow, and Marion Cotillard are just a few. Patient Zero is played by Paltrow, a cheating business exec returning home from a trip to China where she was either exposed to the disease, or was the source of it all. An extremely contagious person hitting three or four international airports in a single day can spread a disease amazingly fast. And what’s worse is how realistic it all is.
Kate Winslet works at the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Her boss Ellis Cheaver (Laurence Fishburne) sends her as a first responder to an outbreak area. And there’s Jude Law who plays one of the villians, a blogger who is constantly reminded that his profession is not journalism. He latched onto the outbreak early (his website is called Truth Serum Now), and begins pushing a holistic antedote to the disease. He makes a fortune, by the way. Soderberg spends music less time exploring the ideas of looting and emptying grocery stores. Others have done that. He seemed much more interested in examining, in depth, the reactions of people that would be looked to as leaders, should such a scenario occur.
There’s a clinical feel to the movie, and this isn’t a criticism. It’s almost a scientific look at what seems like a very possible real life situation. The support of this argument can be found in an extra found on the film’s Blu-ray called The Reality of Contagion. Numerous members of the cast as well as real scientific advisers on the film discuss the terrifying real life facts about spreading disease. While Soderberg keeps this clinical dynamic, the film stays in fine form. He loses his way just a bit when the rhetoric starts flying about the morality of profiting off such events. But these instances are few and far between.
I’ll be honest, the movie is grim. There are far more mass graves than I would like to think about. But it’s solid filmmaking, it explores some interesting ideas. And you just can’t beat that cast. Give Contagion a chance. Just watch it with some hand sanitizer.
The Blu-ray is a little light on special features:
- The Reality of Contagion
- The Contagion Detectives
- Contagion: How a Virus Changes the World
Warner Brothers provided BFR with a free Blu-ray for this review.