‘Contagion’ is gripping, but lacks heart, pacing

Couldn't choose which character to show - so: Title card

The minute Contagion starts, you will never want to touch anything ever again. It begins with a montage of different cities, with a note of their population, and the ill people in each city.  There are small shots interspersed of the ill people touching doorknobs, picking up a cup of coffee, handing a bus driver change, which eerily drives home how easily our germs can spread.

The first half of the movie moves along quickly – exposition, the spread of the virus, a hunt for the cure, mortal danger – but the last section after the climax just goes on and on. The reason is to try and wrap up everyone’s story, but with such a large cast, some characters arcs are still not finished. The climax itself isn’t even that powerful – it almost feels like something else should happen – a twist or a revelation. The revelation comes after all the epilogues are completed, but luckily it really works for the story and wraps up the disease idea in a satisfying way. (Possible spoilers) Without, may I add, by adding the stupid twist of  “It’s not over yet.” Thank God. (End Spoiler).

The acting is stellar from the whole, rather large cast, but none of them have much to work with in terms of emotions. Most of the characters are scientists and have very few opportunities to show the human side of disease, but that’s not to say they didn’t try. There are moments of sadness and humanity with these characters, but there is either not enough time spent with them for us to care or their problems seem insignificant compared to the “civilian” characters. Out of the scientists, the only one with a truly human face is Kate Winslet’s character. Really the two people who are not in the scientific community are Matt Damon and Jude Law. And there are no human moments with Jude Law’s character. You’ll see. Even Matt Damon’s character, whose story starts off staggeringly bleak, cannot hold up the depth of his opening story very far into the movie. Even saying all that, the actors do a wonderful job with what they are given.

There are a lot of small bits of the movie that add up to a more unsettling experience. The coloring at the beginning is visually sickly. The driving music adds a nice level of tension to the story as well. The quick scenes of a character looking around in a crowded group of people and just seeing how the disease could spread is disconcerting to say the least.

The strongest points in the movie are the social statements. This is a world where our global interconnectivity can both doom and save us. The fact that we can travel around the world in a day makes a disease like the one in the movie easily spread, but it also allows people all around the world to work together to try to contain and/or cure it. At the same time, it’s a world where people are distrustful of government and bloggers are just as accepted as a news source as newspaper journalists. Fear mongering is everywhere; rumors seem to be truths. It’s sobering.

Overall, the movie was well worth the money, and I would recommend seeing it. However, with the slow epilogue and lack of human connection, it loses its power after the first time.

Run Time: 105 minutes

Rated: PG-13 for disturbing scenes and some language

Rating: B

One thought on “‘Contagion’ is gripping, but lacks heart, pacing

  1. I really like the sound of the cast that has been gathered together for this movie but it sounds like each of them is only given limited opportunity to shine and develop as a character which is a shame. The plot seems as though it is very similar to many that have come before it but this movie doesn’t seem to have learned from previous offerings and be outstanding.

    Probably not my cuppa tea I suspect…?!?

    The wrapping up towards the end which you say drags on is a worry – I would much prefer to have the climactic ending followed by an epilogue which by definition should always be a short postscript or a brief description of the fates of the characters. It’s a bit like the annoying “out-tro” to a song that should have ended 30 seconds previously.

    The reality of just how quickly a germ can spread is very sobering when you focus on all the possible transmission sources that are everywhere in public places…the very tought of it makes me want to carry disinfectant hand lotion everywhere and spray the gym equipment before use and I now reflect on being part of the ritual of Singapore Airlines spraying the cabin prior to landing at each destination HaHa eeewww I feel sick now *ah-choo*!

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