Northeast Times

Contagion in contagious at the box office

GWYNETH PAL­TROW as Beth Em­hoff in the thrill­er ÒCON­TA­GION,Ó a Warner Bros. Pic­tures re­lease.

Con­ta­gion is a scary movie.

No, it’s not zom­bies, vam­pires, ghouls or ghosts kind of scary, but a mess with your mind, a “this could really hap­pen” type of scary.

The end-of-the-world, pan­dem­ic movie is noth­ing new; in fact, go­ing in, I did not have high ex­pect­a­tions at all. Still, I was curi­ous to see Steven Soder­bergh’s (Traffic, Oceans series) take on the sub­ject with his all-star cast that in­cludes Gwyneth Pal­trow, Matt Da­mon, Kate Wins­let, Laurence Fish­burne, Mari­on Co­til­lard and Jude Law.

It all be­gins with Beth Em­hoff (Pal­trow), who has re­cently re­turned home to her hus­band and son in Min­nesota after a busi­ness trip to Hong Kong. She thinks she has jet lag since she’s feel­ing un­der the weath­er with some flu-like symp­toms. Be­fore you can blink, Beth is con­vulsing on the floor and her hus­band Mitch (Da­mon) rushes her off to the hos­pit­al.

Sadly, doc­tors are un­able to save her.

Beth’s young son soon suf­fers the same fate, as do an in­creas­ing num­ber of people across the globe. It’s now time to call in the big­wigs at WHO (World Health Or­gan­iz­a­tion) and the CDC (Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol and Pre­ven­tion) to find the cause of this vir­us and stop it from spread­ing. The audi­ence knows Beth is to blame, as she’s the early fo­cal point of the movie, and we see her en­ga­ging in a num­ber of routine acts that spread this mys­ter­i­ous vir­us. 

What we don’t know at the be­gin­ning is how Beth did con­tract the vir­us, but it is re­vealed in due time.

There are a num­ber of sub­plots go­ing on, which makes the movie feel un­even at times des­pite the im­press­ive cast.

Fish­burne plays Dr. El­lis Cheever, the CDC head who ex­per­i­ences some con­flict when it comes to warn­ing a loved one about the vir­us — that’s ap­par­ently a big no-no. Wins­let is Dr. Erin Mears, the ded­ic­ated doc­tor who’s in the field col­lect­ing data. Co­til­lard is Dr. Le­onora Or­antes, part of the World Health Or­gan­iz­a­tion, and she heads to Asia to help find a cure.

I felt like something was lack­ing with her part of the story, as well as with Law, who plays a con­spir­acy-the­or­ist blog­ger.

I found that the most in­ter­est­ing part of the story took place in Min­nesota, where the first death oc­curred. I en­joyed see­ing the after-ef­fects of the quar­ant­ine, which were quite chilling, with looted stores, burg­lar­ized homes and just all-out law­less­ness. Da­mon also does well as the grief-stricken hus­band, try­ing to pro­tect his daugh­ter (who was away in the be­gin­ning) from con­tract­ing the vir­us.

After see­ing Con­ta­gion, I am re­minded that the world is a real-life petri dish. An in­cur­able vir­us that kills with­in days is with­in the realm of plaus­ib­il­ity, as the movie points out that this has happened be­fore with the Span­ish flu, SARS and H1N1.

Con­ta­gion will have you fight­ing the urge to rest your hand on your face, or you’ll look war­ily at that co-work­er who just coughed or sneezed be­fore turn­ing the door handle, mak­ing you wish you had a bottle of hand san­it­izer.

Though its chock full of well-known act­ors and act­resses, the un­named dis­ease is the real star of Con­ta­gion. ••

Movie Grade: B

You can reach at shorbrook@bsmphilly.com.

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