Wednesday, September 14, 2011


We went to see Steven Soderbergh's Contagion on Monday night. In the interests of full disclosure, I should admit up front that I was fully prepared to enjoy this movie: the genre of virus films is something that I find eminently satisfying, and this one has a director and cast superior to most.

I like Soderbergh's visual style a lot, and he puts it to good use in this film, conveying both the germ-fueled claustrophobia of the individual characters as well as the vastness of the epidemic itself, particularly as society goes in to decline. The acting is not quite as impressive as you would imagine, given the cast, but those limitations are the result of an unclear plot and lazy storytelling rather than the actors themselves.

The biggest problem with Contagion is that it wants to be several different movies; there are very distinct narrative threads that (I think) are intended to wind together to create a cohesive whole, but the whole falls short of the mark. Characters are dropped from the narrative without explanation as the story progresses; obviously, some have to die from the virus, but others are simply gone. It makes me wonder if some of the story has been lost in editing, particularly with the final scene with Matt Damon's character and his daughter: I understand that it's meant to have an emotional impact, but I don't get why it's supposed to--why does this particular thing matter to his daughter? (I also don't understand why Damon's narrative unfolds the way it does; there is simply no way that the only guy in the world who has demonstrated an immunity to the virus is allowed to go on his merry way by the government.)

I would gladly watch any of the separate narratives as movies: Jude Law's conspiracy theorist blogger, Laurence Fishburne's CDC doctor, Marion Cotillard's WHO doctor, even Matt Damon's heartbroken-but-immune father, but together they don't quite add up.

Bottom Line: Contagion is well worth seeing, just don't expect everything to add up entirely at the end.

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