Rating: 3 stars out of 5
Surprisingly, the scariest film to come out this year is not about vampires running amok, ghosts on the loose or mad terrorists trying to blow things up--nothing massive or spectacular but rather microscopic and invisible to the naked eye.
Picture this: A shot lingers on a grimy doorknob, and a coughing, sickly dude has just turned it and stepped inside the room. The shot stays on said doorknob. You can’t see it, but you can feel the heebie-jeebies crawling up your neck and we can bet that you think that sickly man is going to meet his end very soon.
That’s exactly what director Steven Soderberg wants you to feel in his new thriller Contagion—a story about a pandemic that cuts through global population in just a matter of weeks.
Told in a multiple storyline that spans the globe, Soderberg (Traffic, Ocean’s Eleven, The Informant!) sets the scene in which the little things that people do—touching themselves, one another and objects—sparks off an intercontinental plague that throws everyone including governments and the medical institutions into disarray.
Focusing on how the disease spreads, and the full scale panic of the population, compared to the false calm of the scientists who are desperately fighting the disease amid the chaos outside, the story is very believable (so believable, it’s scary). The fact that in other pandemics (Read: Real ones), we have at least a small chance of keeping safe as long as we don't mingle with the infected, or are lucky enough to have an immunity to the disease. But in the case of this film, its tagline says it all: One touch is all it takes.
Soderberg assembles a solid cast of actors such as Gwyneth Paltrow, Matt Damon, Laurence Fishburne, Jude Law, Marion Cotillard, Ng Chin Han, Elliott Gould, and Kate Winslet, hoping that the star-power of his cast alone can attract cinemagoers.
Sure, the movie is well acted, has good dialogue and fast paced. But maybe due to the relentless pace of the film that everything comes across as too easy—a lot of people get sick (except Matt Damon’s character, who’s conveniently immune), riots break out, a cure is found and everything goes back to normal (roll eyes).
We can see Soderberg shrugging his shoulders and saying, “That’s all folks!” at the end of the movie. All throughout, we kept waiting and waiting for something immense and colossal to happen: An asteroid attack, an imminent flood…just something. But nada, zilch, nothing.
Another thing is that the search for the cure of this mysterious disease which threatens to wipe out humanity seems to take about five minutes.
There’s a lack of dramatic tension and suspense to this film, the kind that will leave you on the edge of your seats; or in the case of Contagion, leave your ass hovering above your seat throughout the entire movie.
The only suspense you’ll be getting in Contagion is from guessing where Soderberg will take you next. Gwyneth Paltrow died so early in the film that you will think that she might come back as a zombie midway. Right from the onset, Contagion has that zombie movie feel and some scenes look like they were taken straight out of The Walking Dead or 28 Days Later. Heck… even that kind of ending will be more interesting, but honestly, we’re somehow glad that it’s not.
Instead, the movie pulls back and it’s not the end of the world type of flick after all. Contagion shows us how small and interconnected the modern world and that a weapon of mass destruction is not man made.
A past-paced thriller that rushes through to the conclusion and doesn’t engage you along the way, Contagion is otherwise a slick and potently scary movie. We’re just glad that it’s not shot and shown in 3D.
Don’t forget to wash your hands after reading this.