Monday, 29 April 2013

Contagion Review

This is what happens when you merge Love, Actually with Outbreak.  You get an ensemble movie where all of the performances are very good, the premise is one that has the potential to be very tense, and all of the characters are interesting with compelling stories and motivation.  For some reason, that worked in Love, Actually.  The sometimes loose, sometimes not connections between characters kept us interested in what they were up to and we wanted to know what would happen next.  Contagion took the same type of formula and applied it to a new virus that has started killing people.  We see how it affects different people and their methods for dealing with it.  While it is written, filmed, and acted very well, something about it made it fall a little flat.

As I said, it is made very well.  Having it set mostly in the time between American Thanksgiving and Christmas gives it a bleak, wintry feel.  This sets the mood for the whole movie which is good because there is nothing "bright and sunny" about dealing with a killer virus.  They cast strong actors across the board and each one is placed into a role that suits them perfectly.  Jude Law plays a jackass conspiracy theorist perfectly.  Kate Winslet makes a great middle management scientist that is in a bit over her head with containment.  And Matt Damon did very well as the father dealing with the loss of people to the virus when he, himself, can't be affected by it.

I think the problem with the movie is that they may have made it too realistic.  This is exactly how I think an outbreak like this would occur in the real world.  There would be quarantines, deserted streets, etc.  But the efforts to find a vaccine and eradicate the disease would march on with very little fanfare and other pageantry that Hollywood would like us to believe would be present.  The press conferences, lab work, etc. in Contagion happen quite quietly with people who are remaining calm.  They never underestimate the importance of what they are doing but they also go about it like normal people.  There is some of the panic from the masses that we would expect in some looting and supply lineup violence.  But this film focuses less on that and more on managing the fallout and eradication of the threat.  Because of this realism, a lot of the tension that a film like this needs is lost and it makes it move quite slowly.

If you want a drama that has some good performances, see it.  If you're looking for more of a thriller, don't.

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