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The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

Viewers, high-octane cast should wash hands of boring thriller

Alan Krumwiede (Jude Law) walks through San Francisco in Contagion. The city is deserted and, for some reason, trashed. Photo courtesy Warner Bros. Pictures
Alan Krumwiede (Jude Law) walks through San Francisco in Contagion. The city is deserted and, for some reason, trashed. Photo courtesy Warner Bros. Pictures

By Joshua Knopp/managing editor

Contagion was good enough, but aren’t thrillers supposed to be thrilling?

The film functions as a disaster movie, following a broad range of characters whose lives never intersect.

These characters include patient zero Beth Emhoff (Gwyneth Paltrow), her husband Mitch (Matt Damon), Dr. Ellis Cheever (Laurence Fishburne) at the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Epidemic Intelligence Service officer Dr. Erin Mears (Kate Winslet), Dr. Leonara Orantes (Marion Cotillard) and Alan Krumwiede (Jude Law), a freelance journalist who uses the outbreak for profit. 

For a movie that advertises pestilence-driven excitement, Contagion’s realism is surprising. The disease is quickly dissected into a combination of pig and bat flu with a mortality rate of two days and likelihood to infect between two and eight people per person who carry the disease.

The CDC is seen tracing the disease from patient zero in a Hong Kong casino to Chicago to the rest of the world, developing a vaccine and advising the U.S. to wash hands and stay home if sick. This is exactly what it has done during every outbreak since its founding in 1942.

Damon portrays a common man living in an oddly deconstructed suburban home after the outbreak, and as far as his storyline is concerned, things never really get exciting. His wife and son die early, and while he must take care of his daughter, he does this too effectively to be entertaining.

As a character, he should be praised for avoiding trouble so deftly, but there’s a reason most characters in these situations have some level of idiocy to them.

Law provides some level of entertainment as a paranoid opportunist. With journalism dying, he makes his way selling his foresight to stockbrokers, but eventually ends up affecting the market more than reporting on it.

Contagion feels disjointed. Cool science-ish music plays in the backgrounds of some scenes, muting the fear that the advertisements stressed.

Sanjay Gupta and comedian Demetri Martin appear, and no matter how sure the audience is they will make a joke or self-reference, both of them are quite respectful on-screen — Gupta as himself and Martin as a doctor researching a vaccine.

The film feels less like a thriller and more like a dramatized documentary on how this outbreak might actually play out. It fits well in an arthouse, but not as a wide-release blockbuster.

Final take: A dull thriller or an excellent documentary on theoretical events

Those who would enjoy it: Anyone who wants to research the CDC in a movie theater

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