Saturday, 10 September 2011

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Contagion [Review]


Opinion: A-

Contagion flies everywhere around the globe to tell its story, much like how its protagonist spreads itself relentlessly around the world within hours. Despite having a docu-narrative structure pieced together by random characters scattered about just everywhere, it is this worldwide scale of how the sparsely present virus connects our 7 billion population (including a sizable number of A-listers) that delivers the fear factor so credibly well as a mere food for thought.



"Contagion" follows the rapid progress of a lethal airborne virus that kills within days. As the fast-moving epidemic grows, the worldwide medical community races to find a cure and control the panic that spreads faster than the virus itself. At the same time, ordinary people struggle to survive in a society coming apart.


Contagion is a epidemic viral phenomenon that spreads like wild fire in a dense forest. Like any other, there's always a Ground Zero to begin with.

Steven Soderbergh has decided to strike us with a cough and a sneeze from Day 2 instead.

Day 2 is when the virus emerged as a visible antagonist in the form of symptoms sported in its human host. So in a way, the Day 2 opening placement throws an intended vignette around the virus that Soderbergh is trying to achieve here.

The film takes an upbeat pace right from the start and maintains it throughout its entire 105 minutes. It never allows its audience to recline into their cushioned theatre seats in comfort, engaging their attention very effectively (evident at my screening where I could hear a pin drop on the plush carpet theatre flooring).

The visual narration, although in contrast of digital pristine quality, is very much a documentary telling a story with so much plausibility that further throws us into a pool of mental question marks. "Can this really be happening during our time?". It is possible of Soderbergh trying to propose to his audience that it's not a question of if but a question of when. That said, he has presented the film's happenings and revelations objectively as they are to allow the audience to take in his proposition and decide for themselves.

So how does Contagion strikes fear?

Contagion's thriller genre branding is questionably doubted by many. However, judging from how Soderbergh has enabled the unknown virus to instill fear in us through a mere cough, sneeze, or gentle physical contact, I think he has successfully made the virus an extreme high profile serial killer at large.

But that is not all.

If you noticed that Contagion is filled with A-list actors and was wondering if that's considered an overkill, here's my take on it. Soderbergh has placed them about the film as various characters pursuing various plot threads to eliminate preemptive anticipation. It is possibly a norm that A-list actors are rarely killed off, so when you have A-listers everywhere you can't be sure who or when the characters will be striked out of the silver screen.

This alone, makes the film a horrifying thriller in some ways.

Of course, Contagion isn't just about a strange viral disease invading mankind (if it is, I would have thought lesser of this film). It's also very much about possible mankind reactions to such grave situations. With several loose plot threads pursued by various characters around the globe, Soderbergh manage to discuss enough possibilities within a short run time.

Credit has to go to the remarkable screenplay by Scott Z. Burns (of The Informant! and The Bourne Ultimatum fame) that beholds a credible amount of substance without being a confusing scientific audience murderer.


There is this aspect of a blogger played by Jude Law that makes the film very relevant to today's context. Social media enables loose random thoughts of citizen journalism to further escalated into blaspheme phenomenons that may turn them into opportunistic dictators of an anarchic society.

This brings opportunism to a whole new level entirely from capitalism.

Looting, killing, riots, raging mobs, morality shifts, these are very real outcomes during a massive scale of pandemic unfolding when our survival instincts take over civilisation and social etiquette. Yes, I used the word etiquette because they would be regarded as a useless luxury during an epidermic outbreak.

Think about it when the world becomes a place where money is no longer a valuable currency.

The issue of priority within mankind particularly appealed to me, as this topic is indeed as real as the ticking seconds of time. Who gets the immunity vaccines first? Within a country, will it be those in power and authority? Around the world, will it be the first-world nations to get them first and leaving the poorer nations to religious praying for miracles as their best chance of survival?

If "Jaws was enough to keep people off the waters", Contagion is enough to keep its audience hysteric about personal hygiene.  During the screening, someone gave out a light cough and everybody threw their stare right over sternly.

So it isn't wrong to say that Contagion is contagious.

Contagion is not just your typical disaster film where action takes centre stage, it is a masterfully crafted piece of food for thought that everybody should indulge in.


8 comments:

  1. Based on your review this movie sounds really fantastic, buddy!
    Can't wait to watch it!

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  2. I'm literally dying to see this! It looks amazing and the cast is phenomenal! Excellent review, J! :)

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  3. The director can do no wrong, but not sure if I want to see this in the theaters or not. I really don't need to amp up the fear factor and it sounds as if this movie excels at that.

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  4. Just watched it. Good film. (:

    But the plot in my opinion, could've been more complex though.. but, its a good movie. :]

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  5. @Jaccstev Thanks Jaccstev, but there's been quite a number of opinions that didn't favour this film though, so there might be a chance of you not liking this. I'll check out your review when you post it! :D

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  6. @Nebular Yes the cast is impressive, let me know what you think of it after you catch it (will be checking your site out). Heard that you're busy these days, let's hope you get to free up some time for movies! :D

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  7. @Alex Hey Alex, seems like you're familiar with Soderbergh's works. The film's fear comes in subtle dosages, not too blatant I would say. You might like to check out what others around you feel about it before making a decision if you'd be catching this at the theatres :)

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  8. @JEMSEN Hey Jemsen, glad that you're much in favour with the film. Yes, I think somehow the various plot threads made the film a little sparse in depth.

    Thanks for sharing! :)

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