Most cinephiles can easily spot Steven Soderbergh’s films: big budgets, epic storylines and star-studded casts. As the director behind successes such as the Ocean’s trilogy, Traffic and Erin Brockovich, Soderbergh is skilled at delivering thrilling and dramatic narratives. It comes as no surprise that his latest project, Contagion, does not disappoint.
Contagion follows the events surrounding the global outbreak of an incurable and rapidly spreading lethal virus that is transmitted through touch. It explores the connected stories of rabble-rousers, panicked politicians and people affected by the virus. The film is fast-paced and dramatic: elements that Soderbergh is famous for bringing to all his projects. The ensemble cast is also convenient because the viewer never has to worry about lack-lustre performances. Matt Damon, Kate Winslet, Gwyneth Paltrow and Laurence Fishburne all bring this captivating and emotional thriller to life, which couldn’t have been that hard given Scott Z. Burns’s incredible script.
Even though the movie isn’t explicitly classified as a disaster movie or a horror film, a bit more paranoia and hysteria could have been used given the terrifying storyline. Also, the non-linear narrative seems unnecessary for the greater part of the movie: it complicates certain pivotal scenes that would have been better had they been presented in a simpler way. Audiences should be prepared for intense and affecting moments intercut with Jude Law’s accidentally comedic rants.
The most important thing about Contagion is its commitment to the story, which sets it apart from other thrillers. The focus is wide and global, leaving no room for one or two main actors to steal the show. The message is bigger and more demanding and deserves several points of view, some of which end abruptly because death is the filmS’s main reality. This is what makes the movie so believable and so frightening all at once.
What if Ebola, SARS or swine flu had got out of hand? This question gnaws at your mind throughout the film while you shovel unsanitary concession-stand popcorn into your mouth. The hardest thing about this movie is watching the world plummet into chaos in such a plausible way for two hours and then leaving the cinema nerve-racked and shaken, trying to accept that it was all fiction.
Contagion opens in Nu Metro theatres on 21 October and on the Ster Kinekor circuit on 28 October.