Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Contagion

By Sati. Tuesday, December 13, 2011 , , , , , , ,
83/100 (106 min, 2011)
Plot: A thriller centered on the threat posed by a deadly disease and an international team of doctors contracted by the CDC to deal with the outbreak.
Director: Steven Soderbergh
Writer: Scott Z. Burns
Stars: Matt Damon, Kate Winslet and Jude Law

Don't Touch Anyone

Behold, the scariest movie of the year.
Do you remember that retarded little film called "The Happening" that was in the cinemas few years ago? Well, in that film M. Night Shyamalan was trying to scare us...using the wind that spread plant toxins. He didn't figure out, along with the writers, that if you are going to scare people using something as unorthodox as wind, you need to make sure we are familiar with possible dangers of it and we are already scared of it. "Contagion" contains three things everyone fears - the disease, the unknown and death. And it manages to scare us...with a single cough.
The film is perhaps the most accurate portrayal of how simply and effortlessly the infection can spread - there is a number of scenes where one single touch of another person or just holding a single object, only for a moment, is enough to transfer disease onto us. The movie does a flawless job at showing the rapidity of epidemic, using a slick and elegant structure - day by day, more and more people get infected, the streets start to empty and the mayhem grows proportionally to the desperation of the scared. At one point it almost looks like a possible prelude to the events shown in "The Road".

"Contagion" follows a group of people - annoying smug blogger who is a conspiracy nut (Jude Law), the husband (Matt Damon) of one of the victims (Gwyneth Paltrow), the doctor who is trying to contain the disease (Kate Winslet), her superior (Laurence Fishbourne) WHO representative trying to determine the origin of the epidemic (Marion Cotillard) and the scientist trying to find the cure (Jennifer Ehle). The variety of the characters and the impressive cast is ironically the biggest flaw which is advertised as the asset on various posters promoting the film.
Steven Soderbergh never knows when to stop - sometimes it almost seems as if he wrote specific characters just to be able to cast famous actors. All of his recent films have that flaw, which is a great shame, because if more focused "Contagion" might have had a chance of greatness on par with Soderbergh's "Traffic". Cotillard's character is largely pointless - everything she does could have easily been done by Kate Winslet's heroine. To make matters worse there is an awful kidnapping plot involving her which leads to horribly retarded scene where Cotillard, lovely and talented actress, is teaching...Asian kids how to draw. John Hawkes, such a brilliant actor, has literally three scenes in the movie. I suppose some actors seek Soderbergh out only to star in his movies. But honestly, if he is not going to stop casting people like that soon he is going to turn into Christopher Nolan.
Matt Damon is also expandable - the human element in the story is beautifully shown in Ehle's and Winslet's arc. Not only is Damon's character totally flat, the whole subplot with his wife cheating on him linked to the cause of epidemic is a red herring, which takes way too much time in the movie. Paltrow's character is crucial to the story and as I passionately despise her it was an awful lot of fun to see what kind of scenes she has in the film, one of which includes two scientists staring into a hole in her head looking shocked. We are all shocked as well, when we witness what the mind of that woman is capable of producing.

The only characters that have relevance in the movie are the ones played by Ehle, Winslet, Fishbourne and Law. And the film would have been so much better if it only focused on them. Especially Ehle is incredibly impressive in her subtle performance - it's wonderful to finally see Ehle in well written role, after her short appearance in "The King's Speech" and one scene in both "The Adjustment Bureau" and "The Ides of March". She truly is the heart of the movie and her scenes are a joy and a pleasure to watch. Winslet delivers very strong performance as altruistic doctors putting the well being of others before her own. Law is great as horribly despicable sensation seeker, who makes us all, fellow bloggers, look bad.
The movie is, as all Soderbergh's movies, elegantly shot - yet again he is also responsible not only for the directing but also for interesting cinematography. Cliff Martinez's score, as with another Soderbergh's movie "Solaris", adds a lot to the movie, giving it dramatic pace and as always when it comes to this artist, giving a lot of depth and stylish coldness to the music, through he use of electric beats and clear themes.

"Contagion" is far from being perfect, but it's certainly beautifully directed movie, alas based on the flawed script. It deals with the things that we encounter every day and with the very real threat of the infectious disease and the efforts to contain it. The acting ensemble is doing a very good job and the execution is top notch. But don't watch this one if you are falling ill in this cold time of the year.

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