This bleak and interesting drama about a worldwide flu-like pandemic is a recent offering from the prolific Steven Soderbergh. I haven’t liked much of his past work – the Ocean’s films had a smug obnoxiousness about them – but this is something quite different.
The best thing about Contagion is that it tries to systematically show, from different viewpoints, how a massive pandemic would play out as it spreads across the globe. Of course, we saw something resembling this – or the start of it – when the Swine Flu illness hit the headlines in 2009. There are references to that incident, making the situation feel all the more plausible.
The cast is first-rate. Kate Winslet, Matt Damon, Marion Cottilard, Jennifer Ehle, Lawrence Fishburne, Jue Law and Gwyneth Paltrow are our leads, and they all fit into their roles well (apart from Law, who doesn’t convince as a conspiracy-hunting Australian blogger).
It’s an admirable film, and stays clear of the fantasy zombie-horror nonsense stories like this usually resort to. But the ultra-realistic and observationally astute scenes have a very cold and detached feel, and after a while I started to yearn for something with a little more heart, soul and sentiment. After all, these are people dying, not lifeless machines.
Contagion (2011), directed by Steven Soderbergh, is distributed on Blu-ray disc and DVD in the UK by Warner Bros. Pictures, Certificate 12.