AccessReel Reviews – Contagion

AccessReel Reviews – Contagion

An international traveler reaches into the snack bowl at an airport bar before passing her credit card to a waiter. A business meeting begins with a round of handshakes. A man coughs on a crowded bus… One contact. One instant. And a lethal virus is transmitted. A global pandemic explodes.

At the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, researchers mobilize to break the code of a unique biological pathogen as it continues to mutate. At the same time, amid a rising tide of suspicion over a potential vaccine—and who gets it first— the World Health Organization works through the network of connections that could lead back to the source of what they’re dealing with.

As the death toll escalates and people struggle to protect themselves and their loved ones in a society breaking down, one activist blogger claims the public isn’t getting the truth about what’s really going on, and sets off an epidemic of paranoia and fear as infectious as the virus itself.

Director Stephen Soderbergh brings ‘Contagion’ to cinemas, following previous works including the Oceans trilogy, ‘The Girlfriend Experience’ and ‘The Informant!’. The writer behind ‘Contagion’ is Scott Z Burns who’s previous writing credits include ‘The Bourne Ultimatum’, and ‘The Informant!’.

‘Contagion’ is an interesting film which explores a variety of different perspectives to a global event, the audience is constantly being jumped around from story arc to story arc as the film explores the many different character’s lives throughout the epidemic depicted in the film.

This technique has mixed results as the different facets are intriguing however the narrative becomes somewhat convoluted and it limits the amount of screen time dedicated to each particular story arc making it difficult to become invested in the characters and the difficulties they are trying to overcome.

A number of the sub-plots explored throughout the film feel somewhat under developed by the time the credits roll, and while they are balanced quite, it leaves you feeling like the film could use a longer running time or less story arcs to work with.

There is a very clinical and almost procedural feel to the film which walks a fine line between drama and thriller while exploring some interesting themes throughout, including the nature of the media evolving with technology, as well as the corporatisation of the medical industry and the influence of large pharmaceutical companies.

These various ideas are displayed against a backdrop of a terrifyingly lethal and infectious virus spreading across the globe, with Soderbergh taking an obvious style which doesn’t allow the character drama to overshadow the compelling nature of the spreading virus itself.

Performances are strong and the cast is impressive with almost every lead and supporting role delivered by a recognisable actor, the material delivered provides for the depiction of what seems to be a very realistic response, without becoming overly dramatic, instead allowing this to remain largely an event driven film which lends well to the chilling nature of the material.

Despite what the cast may have people expecting, this is by no means a summer blockbuster, it is a slowly paced, well thought out film, with a quality cast being skilfully directed so as not to stand out from the events around them. It is overall an interesting and unsettling tale, but somewhat encumbered by the amount of material it attempts to cover within a tight running time.

I’m giving ‘Contagion’ 3 out of 5 stars, it is in cinemas across Australia from Thursday 20 October 2011.