Film review #595
Director: Steven Soderbergh
SYNOPSIS: A new virus originating in China quickly spreads around the world, leading to mass death and panic. As scientists struggle to develop a vaccine, the breakdown of social order and the rise of conspiracy theorists sets in, and the virus quickly spreads out of control…
THOUGHTS/ANALYSIS: Contagion is a 2011 science disaster film about a global pandemic, and the race to find a vaccine. Starting off in Hong Kong, the film tracks a number of characters as a mysterious virus infects and kills people around the world, resulting in a global pandemic. The core of the film follows the impact of the virus on the world’s population, but mostly on the scientists who are trying to develop a vaccine. We get a good look at a variety of perspectives in the film, although none really become the central focal point; as mentioned, each character offers their own perspective, without one taking precedence over the others. That said, there does feel like a bit of an imbalance, and some of the stories seem to be missing some scenes that would round off their particular narrative. Also, the film is very U.S. centric for a global pandemic, and we never get a sense of what is happening in other parts of the world other than the U.S. and China. On the whole though, the story is very tightly packed with different perspectives, and obviously the central plot point is the virus, not the personalities, so this narrative technique fits the film well.
I suppose it’s impossible to look back at this 2011 film now without comparing it in some way to the Covid-19 pandemic. There are a lot of similarities in the film: from the origins of the virus, a race for a vaccine, whining conspiracy theorists, social distancing, and the rate of reproduction. It’s perhaps easy to call it prophetic, but it’s actually a credit to the film’s attempt to create a ‘realistic’ scenario, and the amount of research undertaken by the director, working with real scientists to understand what they would do in the vent of a pandemic. So the film isn’t really prophetic, it’s just good research. However, it’s difficult to view the film as a “what-if” scenario when a lot of it became reality, and you’ll probably be constantly comparing it to what actually happened near ten years later. Whether this is to the film’s acclaim or detriment is up for debate. It should be noted that the ensemble cast do give a strong performance, so that’s something that allows the film to stand on it’s own. Overall, Contagion does what it sets out to do with researched precision that brings a speculative scenario to life. However, because of this, it’s proximity to actual events nearly a decade later might be a bit distracting.