Infect Yourself with ‘Contagion’

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    Illustration by Louise Leong.

    If you possess the slightest amount of germaphobia, Steven Soderbergh’s “Contagion” will, undoubtedly, reinforce that fear.

    This thriller disaster film boasts an all-star cast, including Matt Damon, Kate Winslet, Jude Law and Gwyneth Paltrow. Though the film is at times dry and data-heavy, it makes a strong statement about the extreme, barbaric transformations humans can undergo in reaction to disastrous events.

    This tale of four people affected by the sudden outburst of a deadly and highly contagious virus is set, unsettlingly enough, in contemporary times. Nobody knows where this terrifying virus originated from, or any cure for it; all we know is it spreads faster than any other disease or virus known to mankind and if nobody finds a cure soon, humanity may cease to exist.

    Soderbergh breaks up the film into four subplots that interweave increasingly as the film progresses. This narrative style is reminiscent of Paul Haggis’ 2004 drama “Crash,” especially in its lack of a prominent protagonist. The virus takes the role of antagonist as it rips apart the lives of the main characters, especially Mitch Emhoff (Damon), who loses his wife to this paralyzing virus days after she returns from Hong Kong. Throughout the movie, an Epidemic Intelligence Service officer, outstandingly played by Kate Winslet, struggles to find a cure for the disease as it spreads globally.

    Although “Contagion” is a thriller, the film gives off more of an empirical, scientific vibe. The majority of the movie focuses on characters’ theories as to the origin of the virus, setting a good deal of the film in laboratories. This can make the storyline difficult to follow if you are not familiar with the feel of scientific movies. Less data and more character development could have balanced the film better, incorporating technological aspects of the movie with more character-driven material. Because the film is so preoccupied with scientific drama, the intricacies of human emotion fall by the wayside. After the tragic death of his wife, Mitch is appropriately crushed, but these emotions abruptly evaporate.

    Along with the other characters in the film, Mitch focuses less on his personal life and more on the struggle of finding a cure for this virus. The more people continue to die, the more the survivors begin to act like animals. Riots, violence and complete mayhem break out among the infected cities. These scenes add to the overall theme of the movie, which is the fight for human survival.

    If you enjoy disaster thrillers and sci-fi flicks, you will most likely be entertained by “Contagion.” But if you tend to grow bored of scientific talk, you may be unimpressed and restless.

    Also, don’t be surprised if you find yourself wanting to invest a pair of gloves and maybe even a face mask for everyday use … just warning you.