What’s this? A large film release that hasn’t been reviewed on this site before it comes to me? I… I’m not sure… if I can handle the pressure. Yes, that’s right. The Guard (my preferred film to review this week) already has not one, but two theatrical reviews here on the site. Contagion… none. So I guess that means it’s up to me. *cracks knuckles* Let’s do this.
The film begins as Beth (Gwyneth Paltrow) comes home from a Hong Kong trip quite ill. She passes the sickness on to others she came in contact with on the trip, and then again after coming home to her family until it spreads and becomes a worldwide epidemic. But her husband, Mitch (Matt Damon), is apparently immune. We then follow others, including Dr. Ellis Cheever (Laurence Fishburne), Dr. Erin Mears (Kate Winslet), Dr. Ian Sussman (Elliot Gould), and Dr. Ally Hextall (Jennifer Ehle) try to find a vaccine. Meanwhile, Dr. Leonora Orantes (Marion Cotillard) gets into a bit of trouble as she tries to find the path of the epidemic. The film also stars John Hawkes as a custodian who works in Dr. Cheever’s building, and Jude Law as a blogger trying to capitalize on the epidemic.
Contagion suffers from the worst thing a movie could suffer from–being boring. With the exception of Laurence Fishburne (and kinda-sorta Marion Cotillard), none of the characters really change or grow in any significant way. Matt Damon’s relationship with his daughter is pretty one-note, and although he acts it well enough, I just didn’t care. The movie mostly felt, to me, like a 2-hour science lesson on airborne pathogens… that just happened to have a bunch of characters in it. It was focused on how the virus worked rather than how the virus changed lives. Of course it’s all there, but it felt very shallow to me. Though I will admit I liked Jude Law’s character; he was totally smarmy and wicked and did a great job with the role.
On the technical side, it wasn’t poorly made or anything. It just… I could not get into it. I didn’t hate the movie, but I certainly didn’t love it. I just didn’t care, which to me is the worst thing that can happen to a movie. If you’re a fan of how epidemics and viruses and whatnot work, you might really enjoy the film. But don’t go in looking for story, character development, or… much of anything outside of the science and some pretty good acting.