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September 10, 2011 | 9:49 a.m. CST
The film begins with the sound of a cough, followed by a sneeze, and a handshake. The audience enters on day two of the epidemic and watches a series of seemingly innocuous acts result in the demise of over 26 million people. Contagion, after all, does not focus on one member of its star-studded cast; it is the life story of the virus itself.
Starring Matt Damon, Gwyneth Paltrow, Jude Law, Lawrence Fishburne, Kate Winslett, Jennifer Ehle and Marion Cotillard, Contagion follows the patients and scientists most central to the life and death of the virus. Grieving father and husband Mitch Emhoff (Damon) struggles with the unexpected death of his wife Beth (Paltrow) and vows to protect his teenage daughter from contamination. Meanwhile, activist blogger Alan Krumwiede (Law) feeds seemingly credible information to the public, promoting an alleged cure for the virus and spreading fear.Related Movie
Scientists Drs. Ellis Cheever (Fishburne,) Ally Hextall (Ehle,) Leonora Orantes (Cotillard) and Erin Mears (Winslett) diligently work to find the cause of the outbreak. They strive to develop a curing vaccine and to track the movement of the epidemic.
What is most notable about Contagion is its sense of tempo; the pace of the story and dialogue, along with the number of shots per minute is a reflection of the virus’s movement. When the stakes are highest, the screen is saturated with movement and dialogue; when things seem to be calming down, the plot does too. This effectively immerses the audience in panic. While the science becomes dense at times and the film neglects a few loose ends, Contagion succeeds in creating realistic characters and clearly tracking five separate subplots (at least most of the time).
Most successfully, however, Contagion generates germaphobia as any decent epidemic flick should. By the end of the film, the audience might find themselves rushing to the bathroom to wash their hands.