Dir.: Steven Soderbergh
With: Jude Law, Kate Winslet, Matt Damon, Laurence Fishburne, Marion Cotillard
I think that ensemble casts are very dangerous. It is extremely difficult to make a movie with several intertwined plots and keep them entertaining throughout the film. That’s why I was really looking forward to seeing ‘Contagion’; I was hoping that Soderbergh would manage to achieve the impossible.
And the film does start with several brief yet gripping character introductions – we have Gwyneth Paltrow as a jet-setting wife, Matt Damon as her husband, Laurence Fishburne as a head of some sort of a medical facility, Kate Winslet as his employee and Jude Law as a conspiracy blogger. The thing that connects them all together is the outbreak of a new deadly virus MEV1 in Hong Kong.
‘Contagion’ has several highly unpleasant scenes especially the ones that show how the disease spreads from person to person (after watching this you’ll think twice before shaking someone’s hand again). However, after quite a powerful start, the movie begins to lose its intensity. Some storylines sag in the middle and need more development. I thought that Jude Law’s Australian accent was terrible as was his character to be honest.
I guess the film attempts to analyse various human reactions in the moment of global crisis but some of people’s motivations were very unrealistic I think (or at least the way they were presented was not persuasive enough). I feel like Soderbergh tried to cover too much ground in this film, it veered from thriller to mock documentary to disaster movie. Maybe it would have been better if he stuck to one genre only. It is still not clear to me what the main message of the film was – whilst being quite preachy and moralistic it also had some typically American disaster-movie moments that undermined the whole “documentary” feel of it. And despite the huge scale of the drama in the story, you don’t really get to see any real human tragedy. Additionally, the action takes place largely in China and the States – Africa and Latin America where the people would suffer the most presumably are not even shown. The ending does not provide any sense of closure/satisfaction and the movie fizzles out completely.