Death becomes them
Director: Steven Soderbergh ( Traffic) Stars: Matt Damon, Gwyneth Paltrow, Jude Law, Kate Winslet, Laurence Fishburne, Marion Cotillard
Tomorrow, when the flu began FROM the get-go, Contagion is a movie poised to go literally viral.
By daring to dramatise a world laid to waste by a killer flu, the versatile and prolific director Steven Soderbergh has taken on one heck of a job.
In a tad more than 100 minutes, a tad more than 100 million people must perish at the clammy hands of the disease in question.
From first cough to last breath, this spanking new super-bug can kill a carrier inside 48 hours.
Therefore, the most onerous task facing Soderbergh at the commencement of Contagion is how to personalise the preposterous pestilence about to descend.
The challenge is answered with remarkable efficiency, and precious little respect for the star status of his cast.
It is no spoiler to reveal that Gwyneth Paltrow, playing an adulterous housewife just back in the US from an overseas trip, is the first of note to cark it. Fear not. She will not be the last. In fact, Paltrow returns often as a posthumous player in proceedings, via a crucial sequence of forensic flashbacks to how she caught the lurgy in the first place.
( Oh, and in the one genuine lose-your-lunch scene of the picture, dead Gwynnie’s cranium is opened with a buzzsaw by coroners.)
As Contagion moves on and the plague munches indiscriminately on anyone and everyone, the plot plays out on two parallel planes.
On an administrative level, the American authorities scramble to decode the mystery mutant virus while carefully controlling the media to ensure the public is not panicked.
The characters we meet here – Laurence Fishburne as the head of national disease control, and Kate Winslet as one of his loyal agents out in the field – are boilerplate, but believable.
On a domestic level, figures such as Matt Damon ( playing Paltrow’s late husband) and Marion Cotillard ( a French doctor kidnapped by Chinese villagers) are equally sketchy, but provide some necessary scale to the momentous events unfolding.
On a general basis – and it is important to remember that this is a film working in generalities and not specifics – Contagion plays its chilling ‘‘ what if?’’ card quite conservatively.
Disaster movie fanatics expecting a pulp epic along the lines of a 2012 or
The Day After Tomorrow might be slightly disappointed by how far
Contagion stops short of bringing modern civilisation to its knees.
Apart from a few fights erupting in food queues, a home invasion here and a looted store there, we come out of the whole debacle looking like a decent species for a change.
Now showing Village Cinemas