Contagion Realistic, But Not an All-Time Great
3.5 out of 5 stars
Let’s face it, most disaster movies tend to be over-budgeted films that focus on action for the sake of action and have very little
character development. Contagion, however, is not in this category. The film’s story comes off as intelligent, meaningful and intriguing, yet it’s maybe too far on that side of the spectrum, since the movie isn’t all that exciting. It definitely holds interest — the characters and the plot are good and real enough — but it just doesn’t impart a sense of wonderment that great movies undoubtedly do.
Contagion is gripping. Not gripping as in you’re at the edge of the seat with sweat dripping down your face, but as in it has an engaging plot. From the very first sound, a cough, the plot is kick started into action. The plot is pretty straightforward, even though it jumps around perspectives, and nearly every scene deals with the massive amount of stress people are dealing with in response to the disease. The movie does a good job of creating empathy in the audience; the epidemic comes off as realistic, and many scenes can tug at the heartstrings.
The film primarily focuses on the human condition in a time of panic. Just about every viewpoint of the disaster is covered, too. Whether it’s the head of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, doctors struggling to find the cure, a conspiracy theorist, or a man who has just lost half his family to the disease, the perspectives cover a wide range. The quick changes in perspective, however, can be misleading, as there are many characters to follow with this third-person omniscient point of view.
One major theme of the film is how socially contagious things can be, not just in the pathological sense. A lot of the film’s themes center on the rate at which fear, panic, rumors, secrets and hope can spread across a population parallel to disease. It’s overwhelming to see how an idea can spread and overcome a mass of people so quickly. Though one would think the contagion is a virus, it really has much more to do with the latent definition of the word – the ready transmission or spread as of an idea or emotion from person to person.
The film is done well, but at the end of the day, it didn’t have a hook to it that qualifies it as an all-time great film. That’s why the movie only gets the better-than-average 3.5 stars. Sure, the movie is realistic and intriguing, but as a movie, it has a hard time entertaining. The word ‘entertainment’ is different to everybody; the majority of people will find the movie to be on the slower side, since there aren’t tons of enticing action shots. Others will find the movie enthralling. The climax isn’t incredibly exciting either. Things become underwhelming. The buildup is great, but it passively drifts to the end. The result is a good movie for thinking, but there is nothing spectacular about it. Great movies don’t have to be spectacles to be great, but they do need to enchant the audience. Contagion just doesn’t do that.
The level of credibility and realism in the plotline, however, helps make it worthwhile. There are little to no scenes that audiences will think, “Well, that would never happen,” when watching. If anything, the very real possibility of most of the situations is what is the most frightening. Even the CDC itself worked closely with the filmmakers to create a highly accurate portrayal of a growing pandemic, according to cbsnews.com. This is definitely one aspect of the film that the crew did well.
One thing that was interesting to watch was the director’s editing choices. Throughout the film, there are thought-out placements of the camera that bring attention to certain emotions, or sets the mood entirely. It’s pretty cool, and definitely something to look for.
One thing that will definitely pique interest is the amount of celebrities in the film. The cast ranges from the big time like Matt Damon, Jude Law, Laurence Fishburne, Kate Winslet and Gwenyth Paltrow to the surprisingly cast comedian Demetri Martin and Bryan Cranston of AMC’s Breaking Bad fame.
While not the most intense or thrilling disaster film out there, Contagion did a fine job of making a realistic and thought-provoking movie. It just won’t go down in history as an all-time great.