21 March 2012

Movies: Contagion

Contagion (2011) http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1598778/

Thriller Drama

A deadly disease outbreak starts killing folks off, the CDC and other medical teams try isolating the virus to develop a cure while others try to track down patient zero.

Has one of the larger ensemble casts I've seen in a while, drawing from both big-screen and small-screen top-talent pools.

When I first heard of the film my first thought was, of course, 1971's "The Andromeda Strain". Can't be helped, that's my usual go-to for virus outbreak film comparisons. Sure, the '71 flick is a bit dated by now, but it is still a decent film. I don't even consider 2008's "The Andromeda Strain" mini-series 'cause IMO that was a disappointing POS. I only watched the original showing, I've not bothered trying to watch it again, I just remember griping during every episode.
Another possible candidate for an outbreak film comparison is 1995's "Outbreak". I didn't particularly like that film much either. I've watched it a couple times just to be sure. Every few years I would think to myself, "I can't remember why I don't like this film," rewatch it, then I remember. It's been a few years, I still can't remember why I don't like it, but I'm just trusting that I remember I don't like it.
71's "Andromeda Strain" takes place in a bottle. that is, most of the film takes place in a facility where the core cast is 'bottled up' together.  "Outbreak" take us outside of the bottle in some respects, however it is still centered in one general location around a core cast of players.

Regardless, I didn't anticipate much from "Contagion". I figured I've seen plenty of outbreak films (mentioned and unmentioned) and I doubted "Contagion" was going to be anything especially new.  I expected "bug spreads, people die, scientists race to find a cure".

"Contagion" takes a different approach. "Contagion" takes place worldwide with multiple shifts in cast focus taking place. People die. New characters come to the front.  "Contagion" is about as different from predecessors like "The Andromeda Strain" and "Outbreak" as can be.  Not only does the film let us watch the medical teams at work, we get to see societal impact, panic spreading as fast as the disease, international actions fueled by prejudices and distrust, greed exploiting people's fears at no consideration to their well-being, and personal story arcs. All this takes place over a more realistic period of time that would be required to actually track down a virus and develop and distribute immunizations for modern-day populations. Quite ambitious in scope, but it works well. I didn't get lost following all the story threads.

I enjoyed the show. It was much better than anticipated and I'm glad I was wrong about it being "just another outbreak film".  I'm not sure if I'm going to feel compelled to watch it again in the future, but if I do forget why I liked it it won't kill me to see it again.

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