Sunday, September 11, 2011

Box Office Review - Contagion

When Jaws came out in the 70s, people stopped swimming. When Killer Klowns From Outer Space came out in the 80s, people stopped going to the circus. When The Blair Witch Project came out in the 90s, people stopped camping. A good horror film should exploit something common and make it into something horrifying. Contagion isn't exactly a horror film, but it does exploit something common and make it horrific. The horror in Contagion comes from interaction between people. A waiter handling a glass, or business men shaking hands becomes terrifying in Steven Soderbergh's new film. By covering different stories all over the world, Contagion shows how easily one infected person could start an epidemic on a humanity changing scale.

Right away it should be noted that Contagion has a cast that is as impressive as it is vast. A decision was apparently made to cast even small roles with actors that the majority of the audience would recognize. There are some actors, for example the Oscar nominated actor John Hawkes, who have less than ten minutes of screen time. Every actor, even those with small roles, give realistic and emotional performances.

This is fitting, as Contagion tries extremely hard to portray the world wide spread of a deadly virus as realistically as possible. The film shows how the everyman would deal with the situation as well as how the government big wigs would work behind the scenes. There are many conference room scenes that basically act as ways of explaining exactly what the virus is and how it could travel from Hong Kong to Chicago. These scenes of dialogue add to the hopelessness of the film, and with every reveal of new information, things become more grave.

As multi-narrative films go, Contagion does a great job covering many stories without making one more important than the other. The film never forces the different story lines to intersect in an unbelievable way, but is content on allowing the characters to inhabit their own unique stories.

Soderbergh's film is an uncompromising view of what a world wide health crisis would be like. The film never becomes outlandish or unbelievable and portrays the passage of time in a believable way. The characters actions are all justified even when they seem bizarre. The highest praise I can give the film is that while watching it I became aware of how a movie theater is an ample place for a virus to spread. I started noticing how often I moved my hand from the armrest to my face and also when someone in the theater would cough (I just coughed, did I catch something today?). It is unlikely that I am becoming a hypochondriac, but the movie did get me thinking that I should be Purelling my hands more than I do.

A Gold Banana

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