The new movie, CONTAGION, is about a fast spreading lethal virus. But it's nothing like a typical disaster film. Instead, CONTAGION presents a plausible, highly realistic scenario of what might happen if a deadly airborne virus got loose in the world.
Director Steven Soderbergh is working with a big name, high powered cast, but his movie is not so much entertainment as it is a smart, accurate cautionary tale.
The first known victim of the virus is Gwyneth Paltrow's Beth, just back from a business trip to Hong Kong.
Two days later she's dead; her shocked husband Mitch, played by Matt Damon, just can't believe it.
And it's soon apparent that everyone she touched and even anyone who touched something she touched has been exposed.
A doctor played, by Kate Winslet, explains to Mitch just how easy it is for the virus to spread: "The average person touches their face three to five times every minute. In between, we're touching doorknobs, water fountains, and each other." In a matter of days new cases and many new deaths are turning up all over. The virus is on the move.
A researcher at the Center for Disease Control (Jennifer Ehle) tells her boss (Lawrence Fishburne) "It's figuring us out faster than we can figure it out."
Shooting the camera himself, Soderbergh shows us the hard, courageous on scene work of dedicated scientists from the Center for Disease Control and the World Health Organization.
But their bureaucracies are too cumbersome to deal effectively with the rapidly spreading disease. And that opens the door for Jude Law as a greedy opportunist who begins selling a plant product that he claims will cure the disease.
As society begins to shut down, people panic. Soon there is no food in the stores and people become desperate.
What makes CONTAGION worth seeing is its realism and the fine acting of the entire cast.
This movie understands the psychology of
people who can't touch anyone or any object without fear of contamination. But it never stoops to sensationalism or melodrama.
CONTAGION isn't for everyone, but for the right audience it will be fascinating.