Review: Contagion (2011)

Steven Soderbergh has produced some fine films in his time as an established director; Ocean’s Eleven was a sublime mix of dark humour and action, whilst Ocean’s Twelve and Thirteen remained decent but not exactly pulse-racing. Here, it seems Soderbergh sticks to what he knows best, how to deliver a brilliantly shot, gripping film. Here we have, Contagion.

An all-star cast with the likes of Gwyneth Paltrow, Kate Winslet, Matt Damon and Jude Law is bolstered by excellent cinematography and nail-biting claustrophobia in a film which never forgets its purpose: to shock.

Contagion starts with a cough, a single cough from a single woman, which in turn spreads across the globe, killing over 20 million people in every country on the planet and becoming one of the worst viral epidemics the world has ever seen. The directing style is exquisite and focuses on the days after the first contraction of the deadly virus; close-ups of door knobs and drinking fountains add to the heightened panic and sense of claustrophobia and the continuous references to bird-flu bring it home how frail a race we actually are.

Soderbergh gets stuck into the details of the virus straight away and the pace never lets up, you’ll be gasping for air with the infected as you struggle to keep pace with what’s going on; it’s a relentless film, much like the disease itself. The movie is one of many recent developments that have parallel storylines running throughout; Kate Winslet is a scientist at the centre of disease research, whilst Matt Damon plays a middle aged father protecting his daughter.

Gwyneth Paltrow plays a wife and mother who has been embarking on a dangerous affair whilst away on business and it has to be said, she is excellent in her role, even though it lasts a mere 20 minutes before she pegs it. Her illness is well controlled on screen and you share the pain she is in.

Matt Damon is somehow immune to the virus after losing his wife (Paltrow) and more disturbingly, his son in scenes unbefitting of the films 12A certificate and Kate Winslet looks surprisingly angelic in her body bag… oops, didn’t mean to spoil that for you.

Alas, it’s not all good news as Jude Law pops up now and again as an annoying journalist trying to discover a cure and shame the money grabbing pharmaceutical companies, he plays the character well and you definitely buy into his sense of ‘crazy’ but out of all the stories shuffling for your attention, his is the one you care least about.

Unfortunately, some other small issues hold the film from being a complete success. Parallel storylines are all well and good but there are perhaps too many here. Whilst focusing on Winslet dealing with the fact she has contracted the virus, you forget about how Mr. Damon is coping looking after his potentially not immune daughter and the same can be said for Law’s character too. Which one are we to focus on?

Contagion is artistically, a brilliant film, but it could be said that it’s more style over substance. Yes, the characters have depth, though not as much as we’d like, the story is well written and the shots are beautifully choreographed but that good, solid story is lost about half way through as Soderbergh tries to handle all the different viewpoints. It’s a fantastic film, but not the outright success it could have been. You will however, be reaching for that anti-bacterial hand cleanser a little more often.


Scoring /10





Special Effects/Cinematography




Costume Design






Overall: Reasonably good fun, though it takes itself a little too seriously.

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