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Contagion [Blu-ray] (Bilingual)
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Steven Soderbergh alternates between films about individuals, like Erin Brockovich, and multi-character thrillers, like Contagion, which takes a Traffic-style approach to a deadly pandemic. It also represents a reunion for three actors from The Talented Mr. Ripley as Gwyneth Paltrow and Matt Damon play a suburban Minneapolis couple, while Jude Law (with unflattering dentures) plays a muckraking Bay Area blogger. When Beth (Paltrow) returns from a business trip to Hong Kong, she brings a virus with her that spreads across the world, attracting the attention of people at the Centers for Disease Control (Laurence Fishburne, Kate Winslet, and Jennifer Ehle) and the World Health Organization (Marion Cotillard). Just as virologists frantically try to track down the origins of the pathogen and to find a cure, it starts to mutate, foiling every move they make. Soderbergh, who serves as his own cinematographer, captures every development: false rumors, looting in the streets, and mass graves. Whenever he focuses on emptied-out offices and supermarkets, chillers like I Am Legend spring to mind, even if Contagion avoids most sci-fi/horror tropes, except for a stomach-churning autopsy sequence--one of his few real missteps. Mostly, he concentrates on cool heads dealing with life-and-death issues the best they can. The end result registers as more realistic than Outbreak, if less pulse pounding than Traffic, though the final sequence proves Soderbergh can find the grace notes even amidst an unbearable tragedy. --Kathleen C. Fennessy
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The intelligent unfolding of the realities of human nature in what would really happen if a deadly epidemic spread through the population was scary and thought provoking enough. There wasn't one scene in the movie that I couldn't imagine happening if this were real.
It was interesting, well written, great cast and acting, and perfectly told the story.
It figures a week after I've seen CONTAGION, director Steven Soderbergh's latest ensemble film, I come down with a cold and a slight cough. Nothing that can't be cured easily with two gel capsules and a glass of water, mind you; however, being sick this week did cause me to pause about the circumstances of my situation.
My dumb cold is nothing compared to the shellacking that Gwyneth Paltrow's character goes through within the first 20 minutes of the film: Rushed to the emergency room by hubby Matt Damon, Paltrow goes bug-eyed, convulses, and flatlines. Yep, Our Lady of GOOP goes down in the first half of the film. Much of Contagion is straight to the point with a sledgehammer, but the stakes are never so much higher as soon as Soderbergh kills off one of its leading stars.
Similar to the multi-threaded storytelling seen in TRAFFIC, CONTAGION tracks a global epidemic in multiple locales across 90-minutes-or-so. One death becomes three, three become nine, and so on, until governments begin panicking, big pharma clasps its hands in anticipation, and the CDC works day and night looking for a cure. Soderbergh deftly avoids the usual plot contrivances and lavish expenses that plague most disaster flicks, choosing to go for brisk montages of society breaking down as people loot Rite Aids for medicine, corpses piling in the street, and long lines at hospitals.
And the talking! If there ever was a film that avoids sloppy expostion, this is it. There's never a moment in CONTAGION where I felt the characters reduced their dialogue to a Cliff Notes pamphlet. At one point, Jennifer Ehle and Laurence Fishburne--both playing a scientist and the head honcho of the CDC respectively--have a sit-down to discuss a mutation in the virus. It's probably the most compelling dramatic scene I've seen this year, if nothing else but to hear the excitement and terror in Ehle's voice as she describes changes in the contagion's pattern and Fishburne calmly nodding in agreement.
CONTAGION is intelligent--in some ways, almost overthinking itself. We need more films like it (and not another Roland Emmerich bloatfest), and we need more directors like Soderbergh who are willing to put their roots from independent "art" films into big-budget genre films.
And if nothing else, you can blame the deaths of 12 million people or so on Gwyneth Paltrow.
POSSIBLE SPOILER ALERT. ONE PERSON CONSIDERED THE REMAINDER A SPOILER SO I AM PUTTING IN A SPOILER ALERT.
Within a very short time of being home with a cold, she goes into convulsions, is taken to the hospital and dies. Her son goes next and is replicates at swift speed after that. I never once felt that this was a science fiction film or one of these comic book based action films. It seemed to develop exactly as such a pandemic would develop around the world.
There is an all star cast. It would be nice to have more screen time for some of them but then we'd miss getting the bigger picture. People do panic, loot, try to escape, kidnap people for vaccine trades and so forth and so on.
There is a trade off for all of this reality and ensemble acting. That is that you never really come to care about anyone or want to explore their stories further. You do feel sorry for Paltrow's husband, Matt Damon, and his daughter, who are left to deal with their own tragedy. However, his character would have to be onscreen a lot longer for one to really work up a connection with his character.
For what this film is, it is very well done and very good.
Visit my blog with link given on my profile page here or use this phonetically given URL (livingasseniors dot blogspot dot com). Friday's entry will always be weekend entertainment recs from my 5 star Amazon reviews in film, tv, books and music. These are very heavy on buried treasures and hidden gems. My blogspot is published on Monday, Wednesday & Friday.
Overall, it was definitely worth the rental fee.
Gwyneth Paltrow plays Beth Emhof, whose business trip to Hong Kong ends up infecting her (and a lot of other people) with a mysterious and deadly virus. Her husband Mitch (Matt Damon), back home in Minneapolis, is inexplicably immune to the disease, and his horror at what happens to his wife and young step-son is palpable and gut-wrenching. Unfortunately, we see so little of Mitch (and even less of Beth) that it's hard to stay connected. Kate Winslet plays CDC doctor Erin Mears, and for a while we get caught up in her race to unravel the mysteries of this terrible virus. But the film jumps so methodically from Dr. Mears to her boss, Dr. Ellis Cheever (Laurence Fishburne), to World Health Organization investigator Dr. Leonora Orantes (Marion Cotillard) - and it's hard to keep up, much less get invested in these characters. On top of that, there's a very involved sub-plot about a self-serving Internet journalist (Jude Law) who mouths off about unsavory political connections between the CDC/WHO and the pharmaceutical companies, while he's trying to push a homeopathic remedy that could make him a multi-millionaire. There's also a kidnapping plot, lots of scenes of people gone amok, and a very quick resolution to the virus that is neither comprehensible nor particularly satisfying.
Parts of CONTAGION are downright mesmerizing, and there's no doubt Soderbergh knows how to push the panic buttons of moviegoers already worried about H1N1, AIDS, and the latest strain of flu. I just wanted to feel more of a connection to Damon's Mitch, or Winslet's Erin Mears, or Fishburne's Cheever, or Cotillard's Leonora. Soderbergh ends CONTAGION with the kind of lack of closure that will either infuriate its audience or confirm the ultimate reality of its subject matter. Don't expect to find out what happens to everyone . . . or anyone, for that matter. Then again, maybe Soderbergh did us all a favor by keeping us distanced from his characters and not allowing us to actually wrap our proverbial arms around them. It's easier to forget about them that way. And this is definitely a film you won't want to keep thinking about in the wee hours of the morning.
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