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Contagion (2011)

Nothing spreads like fear

Starring:

Bryan Cranston

Daria Strokous

Demetri Martin

Elliott Gould

Enrico Colantoni

Griffin Kane

Gwyneth PaltrowGwyneth Paltrow

Jennifer Ehle

John Hawkes

Josie Ho

Jude LawJude Law

Kate WinsletKate Winslet

Larry Clarke

Laurence FishburneLaurence Fishburne

Matt DamonMatt Damon

Monique Gabriela Curnen

Rebecca Spence

Stef Tovar

Teri McEvoy

Tien You Chui

Yoshiaki Kobayashi

Directed by:

Steven Soderbergh

Rating: 7/10

Running Time: 106 minutes

UK Certificate: 12A

Country: United Arab Emirates, United States

Aaaargh, we’re all going to die! Again. Contagion is the latest Hollywood scare-a-thon, this time telling us we’re going to die from germs and bird flu or whatever (that very same range of diseases that has failed spectacularly to wipe us out over the past few years). Contagion succeeds however in being mightily entertaining and coming in at under two hours which is hugely surprising for the usual self-important ilk.

As is always the way with end-of-the-worlders, we are introduced to an array of characters as the world goes to hell in a handbasket. Gwyneth Paltrow is a globetrotting businesswomen who drops dead after having extra-marital nookie in Asia, Matt Damon is her concerned hubbie, Jude Law strangely turns up as an Australian campaigning blogger with a flat cap, Marian Cotillard works at the World Health Organisation in Geneva and Kate Winslet is an Epidemic Intelligence Officer with Lawrence Fisbourne as her boss.

The characters are quickly and rather neutrally introduced to us in a skillful fashion with a thrifty use of time. Soderbergh borrows from TV cop shows like CSI and explains away the science bits at motormouth speed so your head is spinning  from all the information being crammed into your cranium and the screen always contains a hugely useful snippet – ‘China, Guangdong province, population 100 million’. Soderbergh is refreshingly unsentimental and the virus randomly cuts through the A-list cast leaving the end product feeling credible and unsyrupy.

The major downside to Contagion is that it loses momentum towards the end and this only becomes noticeably apparent thanks to the breakneck speed that precedes this comedown. Also, this kind of scaremongering is really unnecessary in a world that’s battered with warnings of annihilation on a daily basis.

It's Got: Intelligence, entertainment value, lucky to have Soderbergh at the helm

It Needs: To just sustain the pace for a little while longer, to be less realistic!

Alternatives:

2012, The Towering Inferno, Traffic

Summary

Intelligent, entertaining and unsentimental, Contagion is a skillfully put together apocalyptic tale that loses momentum slightly towards the end.

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