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Reviews
STAR RATINGS EXPLAINED
Unmissable 5 Stars
Excellent 4 Stars
Good 3 Stars
Poor 2 Stars
Tragic 1 Star

POSTER ART
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FILM DETAILS
Certificate
12A
Cast
Matt Damon
Gwyneth Paltrow
Marion Cotillard
Kate Winslet
Jude Law
Jennifer Ehle
Elliot Gould
Laurence Fishburne.
Directors
Screenwriters
Running Time
106 minutes

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Contagion
Don't talk to anyone. Don't touch anyone.


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Plot
As an unknown and deadly virus spreads across the world, a man (Damon) struggles to cope with its tragic impact on his family, while the WHO seeks to find its source and the Centers For Disease Control And Prevention fight to contain the epidemic and make a vaccine. Meanwhile, a blogger (Law) claims he knows the true cure…


Review
Contagion
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How many times do you touch your face? It is, we’re guessing, a question you’ve never really considered before. And why should you? You rub your eyes, stroke your chin, massage your temples and, when you think no-one’s looking, pick your nose (we’re not judging). Perfectly normal. Perfectly harmless.

WRONG. What if, as Contagion posits, “somewhere in the world, the wrong pig met up with the wrong bat”? What if Gwyneth Paltrow left a surface-transmitted pig-bat virus teeming invisibly on every — single — thing — she — touched? What if you slapped your hand on one of said things and then, mortally unaware, gave your left eyebrow a nice little scratch. Within 48 hours you could be thrashing around on the floor in agony, foaming at the mouth.

Then, once you’d been opened up, post-mortem, to find out what the hell went wrong, someone would take one look at your germ-napalmed viscera, turn dramatically to their facemask-wearing colleague and gasp something suitably doom-laden like, “Call everyone.”

Contagion is exactly that ‘what if?’ scenario, already wrongly labelled by many as ‘science-fiction’. This isn’t 28 Days Later… or 12 Monkeys. This isn’t even Outbreak; there’s no capuchin to chase, no small town for Donald Sutherland to nuke. Contagion feels more like infamous ’80s nuke drama The Day After, an all-too-convincing reconstruction of a fictional but terrifyingly feasible scenario. The Day After, legend has it, caused Reagan to question his hardline Cold War beliefs. Contagion will cause you to question how many times per day you touch your face.

It’s not science-fiction — but it is the nearest Steven Soderbergh’s yet come to making a horror film. It may well be the scariest of the year, each scene laden with dread as Soderbergh’s camera lingers ominously on a recently clasped door handle, a lift button, or an airport-bar bowl of mixed nuts. Like Final Destination, its killer is unseen, ready to violently strike at any moment. But here Death doesn’t need to be so ludicrously inventive. Why faff around with W. Heath Robinson-style freak accidents when He can just give you flu — and then sit back, watch and grin liplessly as it exponentially spreads?

The sense of foreboding builds horribly as we nip through each location of this globe-rotting film and are given a sense of how many are at deadly risk once the virus goes pandemic. “Kowloon, Hong Kong,” reads the subtitle, “population 2.1 million... San Francisco, population 3.5 million... Tokyo, population 12.9 million… Guandong Province, population 96.1 million.” Jackpot! By Day 12, when so many Americans have been tossed into mass graves that the bodybags have run out, you’ll be telling yourself: it’s only a movie, it’s only a movie.

Like any good horror, Contagion lays out an eclectic cast and quickly establishes that nobody is too famous to survive. Laurence Fishburne is the head of the Centers For Disease Control And Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta, Georgia: grave, calm, but as flawed and as prone to selfishness as any of us. Kate Winslet is his woman on the frontline, the flush-cheeked troubleshooting doc determined to contain the disease at all costs. Jennifer Ehle is the scientist striving to find a vaccine. Marion Cotillard the WHO epidemiologist despatched to track down its source. Matt Damon the concerned parent caught in the midst of the social fallout. Gwnyeth Paltrow his philandering wife. Jude Law the Frisco-based conspiracy-theorist blogger with an agenda: to push ‘Forsythia’, a herbal ‘remedy’.

Law is the nearest thing the movie has to a villain — something close-to-oversold by a particularly weaselly performance, with dodgy Australian accent and unAmerican bad teeth. But in his character’s campaign to have people reject vaccinations and instead buy his non-conventional treatment, Soderbergh and script-writer Scott Z. Burns introduce echoes of the MMR controversy and imply caution towards modern-day snake-oil salesmen. Conversely, they also ensure that Contagion is a cinematic rarity: a movie that makes science the hero.

This virus isn’t concocted in some laboratory by whitecoats playing God, or some vile corporation looking to weaponise microbes; as Fishburne’s character notes in one scene, “Someone doesn’t have to weaponise bird flu — the birds are doing that.” In other words, nature does a good enough job of killing humans without humans needing to mess with nature. And when nature is wiping humanity out, then we need science — specifically conventional medicine — to save us. So while Law lines his own pockets flogging jumped-up placebos to desperate people, it’s the whitecoats of the CDC working on their (free) vaccination who hold the key to mankind’s survival.

There is another important element to Soderbergh’s nightmare scenario. This is not only a viral contagion, but also the spread of something far more virulent: panic. Scenes of people coughing and stumbling blearily, with stylishly defocused POV shots, are followed by even more troubling depictions of law-and-order breakdowns, with food riots exacerbated by widespread emergency-service absenteeism.

Dodging this broken society’s falling rubble is Matt Damon, back in an everyguy role and impressive as ever, but while his director shoots with documentarian clarity and paces with unrelenting urgency, this wide-reaching story’s briskness denies its various episodes true depth. So beyond a few character moments (largely involving his not unreasonable placement of his teenage daughter under effective house arrest), Damon’s ultimately not given a huge deal to chew on. The same goes for his cast-mates. Winslet plays her role beautifully — a woman who has to tackle horrifying odds and yet maintains grace (albeit it furrowed with worrylines) under intense pressure. Again, though, it feels as though she’s too long off screen and doesn’t have quite enough to do while on it.

Cotillard is the actor most denied breathing space — her story should be one of the most dramatic, but it just pulls her out of most of the film, leaving a slight pay-off. As such, Contagion suffers by comparison with Traffic, another Soderbergh film which dealt with a tough issue via a large ensemble, but which was far more attentive to its participants.

To a large degree this is just the nature of the beast, and irks rather than derails. Contagion is, after all, an event-driven piece, playing out a global crisis on a macro-scale. Like The Day After before it, this could have just been a TV movie, and while one could argue that it would have benefited from being made in the longer form of a mini-series, Soderbergh, to his credit, keeps things immediate and cinematic. And bloody petrifying. Try not to cough in the cinema while watching this — you might just empty the place.


Verdict
A starkly effective ensemble drama which could well do for the sniffles what Jaws did for great whites.


Reviewed by Dan Jolin

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Your Reviews

Average user rating for Contagion
Empire Star Rating

tp://www.imdb.com/title/tt1598778/?ref_=nv_sr_1]Contagi onn unknown and highly contagious virus is infecting the world and makes a lot of deadly victims. How do the different organizations handle this and what do they do to keep the virus from spreading any further? With lots of little facts and short shots Soderbergh very clearly shows how spreading of the virus works and that is the most creepy thing about the film. It`s not so much the high numbers of victims that this virus makes that cre... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by TheGodfather at 22:39, 15 June 2014 | Report This Post


Glorified propaganda

Contagion suggests that the government are the do gooders and that the bloggers and those wanting to release the truth are the baddies. Absolute tosh. A few flairs and a big name cast aside, this is ineffective, overrated and coldly presented. Damon is the worst he has been in some time here. Watch Levinson's The Bay instead. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by JJB888 at 23:32, 30 March 2013 | Report This Post


Stunning Soderbergh

What a terrifying, and electric movie. Wow! Briskly paced, lavishly shot with the traditional thumping Soderbergh soundtrack and is fantasticly cast. Winslet, Coutillard, Damon, Paltrow, Law and Fishburne all deliver stella performances. The movie shows that most horrifying scenario where everyday, normal people faced with extraordinary and terrifying conditions can become the bad guys.You hear that we are all just 1 day's lack of meals away from total anarchy, well this film shows what that ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by danielthompson99 at 19:43, 01 December 2012 | Report This Post


RE: Contagion

it's ok but it just reminded me the dustin hoffman movie outbreak. ... More

Posted by moviebuff73 at 00:11, 29 July 2012 | Report This Post


RE: Contagion

SPOLIERS I thought this was an OK movie, but only ...OK, which is surprising given the acting talent on display. I thought that Jude Law's character really was superfluous to the film - he played the role with conviction, but really,it smacked of a conversation around the table "There'd be a blog guy... he'd be the one to cause some real shit"... Maybe so, but I don't think the film needed the character - but if you're going to bring that sort of chap in, the n... More

Posted by Russ Whitfield at 19:21, 21 July 2012 | Report This Post


RE: Contagion

I found this depiction of a worldwide pandemic very good. Usually movies concerning pandemics deals with some airborne critter with close to 100% mortality seen from the viewpoint of a few characters. This movie approaches it subject with a more realistic mortality and transmission from a more "global" description of the pandemic. As a biologist I've always found the (realistic) description of how the bug spreads without regard to the actors fame more interesting than seeing which of Dustin Hof... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by tusse67 at 14:21, 21 July 2012 | Report This Post


RE: DIDN'T CATCH THE BUG

SPOILERS Agree with you Rotgut, the cast in most parts are so underused its unbelievable. I got the impression these huge stars just wanted the chance to work with Soderbergh so they took the smallest of parts. Kate Winslet's death is so understated its like one minute she's there the next she's gone with no emotional string for the audience to grab hold of. Of all the actors, Matt Damon is the most involved and his is the best turn out of them all, even considering he just plays an ordina... More

Posted by MuckyMuckMan at 12:19, 02 July 2012 | Report This Post


DIDN'T CATCH THE BUG

A top notch director, a great cast, a decent script – and a classic set up ripe for a myriad dramatic possibilities. So how come Contagion turns out to be one of the slowest, dreariest, dullest films ever made? After watching this thing for two hours on DVD I just couldn’t dredge up the enthusiasm for any of the characters. They get up, they go to work, they catch the bug, they die. They sit around in rooms like turkeys yakkety, yak yakking with each other for what seems like an ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by ROTGUT at 14:40, 04 May 2012 | Report This Post


RE: Contagion

Did not rate this film at all, the best it offered was the shock factor which is delivered in abundance, but other than that it was a poor attempt at a disaster movie. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by yazoo88 at 11:17, 19 March 2012 | Report This Post


RE: Pretty good

L: Nimrods Son If you're intrigued by the science behind viruses like I am, Contagion is an intriguing film. It's also pretty scary in places. BUT the characters are essentially all cyphers to fill out parts of the plot (Fishbourne's character gives insight into the CDC's efforts to fight the virus, Damon show's the effect of it on the average guy, etc.) and nobody's story arc really grabs you that much. It's more like the whole being more than the sum of its' parts: seeing the viru... More

Posted by UTB at 22:06, 17 March 2012 | Report This Post


Contagion Review

Yes, Contagion was a little slow in places and the final scene was a disappointment, but all in all the film was very entertaining. It is probably the first horror/thriller film in a long time that actually chose a fear shared by everyone in modern society. Matt Damon was fantastic as the loving father, Jude Law performed his role as the Australian antagonist with ease and all the other actors kept me engaged throughout the film till the conclusion of penultimate scene. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by DaleLawson at 14:11, 11 March 2012 | Report This Post


Contagion Review

Tense, tightly plotted, and bolstered by a stellar cast, Contagion is an exceptionally smart and scary disaster movie. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by the film man at 18:36, 20 January 2012 | Report This Post


Warning: May Cause Drowsiness.

Remember when a science teacher named Eliot Moore attempted to survive a disturbing pandemic in Central Park? No? How about when virologist Colonel Sam Daniels combined monkey antibodies in Cedar Creek? If not, then you are likely to forget Contagion, Steven Soderberg’s germ-based disaster movie. In the opening scene, Gwyneth Paltrow unleashes a fast-acting lethal virus on Western civilization, and before long, Laurence Fishburne is making important decisions as Matt Damon’s dejected... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Artificial Luddite at 17:48, 15 December 2011 | Report This Post


RE: Pretty good

If you're intrigued by the science behind viruses like I am, Contagion is an intriguing film. It's also pretty scary in places. BUT the characters are essentially all cyphers to fill out parts of the plot (Fishbourne's character gives insight into the CDC's efforts to fight the virus, Damon show's the effect of it on the average guy, etc.) and nobody's story arc really grabs you that much. It's more like the whole being more than the sum of its' parts: seeing the virus' growth across the glo... More

Posted by Nimrods Son at 02:05, 11 November 2011 | Report This Post


RE: Pretty good

This was a solid and well directed piece with some good performances (except Jude Law's WTF accent) but it did begin to run out of steam in the final 40 minutes and started to drag. I think it definitely has some pacing issues considering how well the film builds in the first hour. Still worth a look. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Spaldron at 18:31, 07 November 2011 | Report This Post


RE: .

Having read some of the other reviews on here, I find myself wondering what some people were expecting when they decided to watch this?  Did they think - "Oh, like Outbreak?" then get annoyed because there were no helicopter chases, evil army types and very little frantic runnning around?  Did apocalyptic movies from mad Max to Land of the Dead make them think that any pandemic inevitably leads to the collapse of civilisation? From all the "dull" comments, I'm starting to think that t... More

Posted by sharkboy at 13:10, 04 November 2011 | Report This Post


Boooooooooriiiiiiing!

Christ this film was dull. What was the point of Jude Law's character? (Please don't tell me that was supposed to be an Australian accent cos it'll go straight to #1 on the list of worst ever) Or Damon's for that matter. He's immune so let's NOT use his blood to try and find a cure?! Cue Matt Damon doing absolutely nothing for the rest of the film. Didn't feel anything for Paltrow's character at all cos she was a cheating b*tch - off sh*gging while her husband sits at home with HER kid?!... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Bobby TwoTimes at 17:03, 03 November 2011 | Report This Post


RE: Contagion

Whilst I admired its quest for an accurate portrayal of how a virus could spread, I found it all to be rather dull. It suffered from some serious pacing issues and that they could easily have chopped a good 30 minutes or so in the editing room – much of this would have been the characters that didn’t really add anything (what a waste of Marion Cotillard). I felt they could have done a lot more to highlight the desperation among the population as the virus spread. There were also scene... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by mattdavies86 at 14:38, 03 November 2011 | Report This Post


scary but not stand-out

Not sure if this deserved four stars. While it was a scary and gripping film (with some good performances) it had more than a few flaws. When there are millions dead, we see rubbish on the streets, but there was no real sense that a significant bit of the population were dead. We saw food riots but after that survivors (including Dad and daughter) seemed not to be starving. Power still worked and you could even text! But the film did provide a strong reminder how this could easily becme a ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by bretty at 14:18, 31 October 2011 | Report This Post


Not really much you can say about this. Concept good. Execution poor... ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by punkdkid at 21:36, 30 October 2011 | Report This Post


RE: Contagion

Man, that Steven Soderbergh doesn't half know how to stage a scene. Liked a lot of the ideas it touched upon, including the bottom line realities of the pharmaceutical industry, alternative medicines, social breakdown, yadda, yadda. I think the film set out what it intended to achieve. That said, the ending lacked real punch. You're kinda hoping for some big revelation, some big corporate conspiracy, something like that. Instead, we find out... n China ate some bat shit or som... More

Posted by max314 at 02:56, 30 October 2011 | Report This Post


RE: Contagion

L: ChudMonkey I'm at a loss as to why there is so much negative feedback on here towards this superb piece of cinema. Yes its slow paced but this is the most realistic, non-sensationalist, taught and wonderfully acted film about a killer virus you could hope for. Its almost documentary like in its take on how the world would respond to such an outbreak. I loved the fact that, despite Damon's (spoiler alert) immunity to the virus, he didn't end up doing the normal Hollywood thing of be... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by jackmansgirl at 12:55, 26 October 2011 | Report This Post


RE: Contagion

t actually think the characters involved would keep track of the number body bags. As the initially poor police response during the recent riots showed, it's always a shock how unprepared authorities can be when something unexpected and large scale spirals out of control. Otherwise I totally agree with you. I find the vitriol aimed against this film here rather strange on this forum, when it has been very well received in the real world. ts not so much keeping count but they ... More

Posted by ChudMonkey at 11:12, 26 October 2011 | Report This Post


RE: Contagion

Only one thing bugged me - a line about body bags running out "two days ago" - it was unnecessary considering the characters involved with the conversation would have been aware two days ago of the shortage. A minor blip on an otherwise excellent movie. 4.5 out of 5 don't actually think the characters involved would keep track of the number body bags. As the initially poor police response during the recent riots showed, it's always a shock how unprepared authorities can be when ... More

Posted by Herr Schnitzel at 10:54, 26 October 2011 | Report This Post


RE: Contagion

I'm at a loss as to why there is so much negative feedback on here towards this superb piece of cinema. Yes its slow paced but this is the most realistic, non-sensationalist, taught and wonderfully acted film about a killer virus you could hope for. Its almost documentary like in its take on how the world would respond to such an outbreak. I loved the fact that, despite Damon's (spoiler alert) immunity to the virus, he didn't end up doing the normal Hollywood thing of becoming some kind of her... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by ChudMonkey at 10:49, 26 October 2011 | Report This Post


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