Death be­comes them

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - EGuide Movies - www.con­ta­gion­movie.warner­bros.com

CON­TA­GION (M)

★★★

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

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