Thursday, 26 April 2012

Contagion

A married woman (Gwyneth Paltrow) stops off in Chicago on her way back from a business trip in Hong Kong to engage in extra marital activities with an old boyfriend. When back home in Minneapolis she feels ill and believes she has contracted a cold while away. It turns out to be something much more serious though when she suffers a fit and is rushed to hospital. Unable to save her, doctors inform her husband (Matt Damon) that she has passed away and medical examiners begin tests to figure out what the deadly virus is. Meanwhile people all over the world are contracting the virus and it soon becomes clear that there is an epidemic on a global scale. WHO epidemiologist (Marion Cotillard) travels to Hong Kong to try to find the source of the infection and Disease Control boss (Laurence Fishburne) sends field agent (Kate Winslet) to Minneapolis to get a grip on events there. In a final strand to the story, blogger (Jude Law) is informing millions of his readers about Government cover-ups and conspiracies but has an agenda of his own.


One thing I liked about this film is that at times it felt very real. The way the outbreak was handled by the infection and medical control people as well as the dialogue and reaction of the public felt realistic. The idea behind the film is also very current and possible. As someone who already tends to open doors with my elbows, it’s made me want to wear surgical gloves and mask whenever I leave the house. Another thing I liked was the Matt Damon strand of the plot. It was sweet but in the end I felt that it was swallowed up by the rest of the film. As with many Soderbergh films there are lots of intertwining stands to the story but I’d have preferred either a family against the infection or world against the infection story. Damon’s strand was given very little room. As much as I liked this part the film may have been better without it by giving its time to the big picture or removing another strand to create more room for that one. I also liked the fact that (SPOILER WARNING) it wasn’t afraid to kill off major stars early on. It went a bit Pulp Fiction which worked in its favour. It would have felt silly if every character who came into direct contact with the virus survived.

Unfortunately there was much more that I didn’t like than did. The first thing is the annoying and repetitive electronic score that permeated the entire film. It reminded me of when you go into a nightclub on a video game and they just play the same six bars of music over and over for twenty minutes. Here it lasted 106 minutes. I suppose it was used to create pace and tension but I don’t believe it did either. Another problem was with the pace and tension. The potential destruction of humanity felt incredibly dull. At no time did I feel worried or even particularly care about what was going on. I understand that this was pitched as more of a drama than an action film but Outbreak was a more enjoyable film than this. And that's saying something! Perhaps I felt like this because I got off on the wrong foot with the film when it had a caption saying London, England in the opening scene. London, England? Really? Not the other London then? I really wish American films would stop with the London, England/Paris, France type of stuff. Does anyone really think that it might be London, Kentucky or Paris, Illinois? The worst part of the film though was Jude Law’s unforgivable Australian accent. For the first half of the film I thought he was from Birmingham, England (see its annoying) and it wasn’t until about two thirds in that it dawned on me he was attempting Australian. I don’t know why he bothered. An English blogger would have sufficed and he wouldn’t have seemed so crap.

Overall this is a very mixed film. There are plenty of good things in there and a fantastic ensemble cast of A-List and less recognizable but excellent actors but the problems outweighed the positives for me. I didn’t feel threatened by it when I should have been and it wasn’t exciting or gripping enough.

4/10

8 comments:

  1. I agree with you on some points Tom, though I did enjoy the film I am glad I did not go to the cinema to see it and watched it at home.

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  2. I stopped reading after a while because I haven't seen it yet, and I didn't want my judgement of the film to be clouded. I must say that your review is the first negative thing I've heard about this film though; I've heard nothing but praise. I think it's already on my lovefilm list, so I'll get round to seeing it at some point.

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    Replies
    1. I didn't realise when I was writing my review that I was in a minority but have since discovered that this is the case. My girlfiend disliked it even more than me. I'll look forward to reading what you think when you see it. Thanks for the comment!

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  3. Contagion becomes a battle between what it is and what it could have been. It satisfies just enough to warrant its existence while frustrating one with its potential. Nice review Tom.

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    Replies
    1. Thanks Dan O. Your two sentences pretty much said what it took me 600 words to say!

      Delete
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