The average human touches their face 5,500 times a day. Imagine what bacteria your spreading. With the amount of daily human interactions, i.e. money, credit cards, buttons, door knobs, touching…etc, do we ever stop and realize how dirty things are?
How easy would it be for a virus to wipe out an entire city. Since the majority of cities on Earth are overpopulated. it would be simple. Perhaps we are due for another influenza-style epidemic.
The 2011 film Contagion specifically focuses on hundreds of these interactions that remain unnoticed. It is a germaphobes worst nightmare and a viral dream-come-true. The film, directed by Ocean’s Eleven Steven Soderbergh, plays as one of those horror movies where the monster remains unknown (Paranormal Activity). In this case, the monster is not unknown, merely microscopic and one that rejects cures and isolation.
In the opening scenes, Soderbergh focuses on the hundreds of subconscious interactions we as humans make, and as he is proving this point, we hear a solo cough. The type that screams stay away from me. The cough is from Beth Emhoff, played by Gwyneth Paltrow, a Minneapolis woman on business in Hong Kong.
That first cough made by Beth is not her last. Upon arriving home, she not only dies from it, but her son dies too. Her husband Mitch, played by Matt Damon, naturally immune to the virus, attempts to stop this alien species from destroying the entire world.
The film plays like an archive of the incident. It starts out with Day 1, Day 2 and with each passing day, the virus spreads further, faster and the death count rises. Of course, many of the film’s key players attempt to prevent this. Dr. Ellis Cheever, played by Laurence Fishburne, of the CDC (Centers for Disease Control). Dr. Erin Mears, played by Kate Winslet, works for the EIS (Epidemic Intelligence Service). Dr. Leonora Orantes, played by Marion Cotillard and last, but not least, Dr. Ally Hextall, played by Jennifer Ehle. All these characters must find a cure before it is too late…
The film is good, but it does have some questionable aspects. The characters are the most mundane and shallow ones I have seen in a long time. The dialogue is bland. I understand the film is not about the dialogue and characters – mainly because the characters do not live so long – but they could have been planned out better.
The aspect that made me the most confused was the character of Alan Krumwiede, played by Jude Law. He was the popular blogger and journalists that created the ideas of government conspiracies. He was a rebel, you know the type. His character, on the other hand, made little sense with the rest of the film. While the majority of the characters are attempting to stop this epidemic, Alan blogs about how the government and the pharmaceutical companies will profit.
He is also seen walking around the desolate streets of once overpopulated cities. He has no purpose. He only creates panic in the masses…masses that are already in panic. His character is essentially useless. Soderbergh needed another star to get his ratings up I guess.
This review is not designed to just point out the mistakes. Soderbergh does an excellent job showing the fragility of our society. Although we seem strong on the surface, in the event of danger that affects everyone, we would crumble. Similar to the chaos seen in the film Outbreak, Contagion puts that chaos on a global level.
The film boils down to a simple, yet true, statement: people, for the most part, are civilized, but when faced with a life threatening situation, will always resort to their animalistic hunter-gatherer tendencies. And speaking of hunter-gather survival of the fittest, Contagion broaches the subject of who, if a limited supply of the cure existed, would receive treatment. Would only the Elite class…or would their be some sort of lottery program?
This is a much more disturbing film compared to the horror slashers, or even war movies. An epidemic is something that could easily happen. With the amount of people not receiving healthcare, the death toll would be catastrophic. Viruses prey on the weak, and in this world, the weak outnumber the strong.