Fear is the Horror of ‘Contagion’
“Contagion” is a horror film in the most real sense, from director Steven Soderbergh. The horror of “Contagion” is the fear of an epidemic, and its dire consequences. Day by day and step by step the progress of a mysterious, lethal airborne virus is traced from its initial outbreak in Asia to the USA, Europe and other parts of the world.
An all-star cast signed up to play what amounts to cameo roles as the focus shifts from victim to victim and medical expert to medical expert and law enforcement personnel, as everyone races to find a cure before the epidemic lurches out of control.
First onstage is Gwyneth Paltrow as Beth Emhoff, an American businesswoman who picked up what seems to be the flu in Hong Kong.
Beth just thinks she is suffering from jet lag, but after she returns home to Minneapolis, her symptoms worsen as she grows weaker. Worse, her young son comes down with similar symptoms.
The scariest part of “Contagion” is that it really could happen and has happened in the past. Scott Z. Burns’ script throws out facts and figures from history books. A particularly sobering statistic is that one percent of the world’s population was killed by the influenza epidemic of 1918 before a vaccine was formulated.
The facts and figures are dispensed by authority figures, such as Laurence Fishburne’s Dr. Ellis Cheever of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Kate Winslet as research scientist Dr. Erin Mears.
Fanning the fear and paranoia is Jude Law’s Alan Krumeide, a muck-raking British blogger based in San Francisco and claiming a readership of 12 million. Krumeide accuses the CDC of being in league with pharmaceutical companies, delaying the creation of a lifesaving vaccine. When there is money to be made, morals go out the window.
Fear leads to panic and panic leads to chaos. We see a good person like China-based Dr. Leonora Orantes (Marion Cotillard) being betrayed by people she thought were her friends.
Don’t be surprised if you leave “Contagion” with the heightened awareness of the perils of simple human contact. Consider the fact the average human touches his or her face two
to three thousand times a day, and those same hands touch everything from door handles to cutlery to food. As a thought-proving thriller with horrific consequences, “Contagion” is most effective.
Three and a half stars.