Friday, September 9, 2011

Contagion - Movie Review

Don't see this movie if you have a thing about germs. If you do have a thing about germs, then you're a scardey-cat anyway. I'm not talking about washing your hands before leaving the bathroom, but some people take it to an unhealthy extreme.

Anyway, originally I was upset at the trailer for Contation for spoiling the death of a character, played by a major actress. That seemed like a pretty big reveal and something that really irritates me about trailers these days. Fortunately, that death occurs in the opening moments of Contagion and doesn't really spoil much about the movie.

Contagion had an interesting start: Gwyneth Paltrow comes back home from a business trip in China. Shortly after arriving home, she falls ill and dies of a mysterious illness. In a weird twist, they add a flaw to her character that kind of makes you not sad she died, but anyway...

You see MATT DAMON freak out in the trailer, but that scene was edited for trailer impact. His actual reaction in the movie seemed a little toned down in comparison.

Many others die in a short period of time, which throws the CDC in a frenzy to identify the cause, and cure, of this illness. The CDC team is lead by Morpheus, I mean Laurence Fishburn, and Kate Winslet. Marion Cotillard's character is also involved, but I wasn't sure if she was part of the CDC or some other agency.

The cast of Contagion is stacked! Bryan Cranston shows up in a small role as some military dude, Elliot Gould is some scientist, Jude Law is a snaggle-toothed blogger (it's a weird fake tooth thing they gave him), and Oscar-nominated actor John Hawkes shows up for two seconds as a frigging janitor. It's like Steven Soderbergh cashed in a bunch of favors.

The first part of the movie is actually pretty tense and works as a good thriller. I was pretty engaged in what was going on. Then after about an hour, shit gets real! Once the disease becomes public, panic spreads and people start to revert riotous behavior. Except for MATT DAMON, who is inexplicably immune to the disease and as a result is unusually calm. I guess he's watched movies like I Am Legend and is just planning his strategy.

They don't focus all that much on the public reaction. Contagion seemed to focus more on the behind the scenes of the disease. I actually liked what they did here.

They do some things with the characters to let you know that nobody is safe. Unfortunately, there's so much going on that you at times lose track of the characters in the movie and subplots until they come back to them. Towards the end of the movie, they try wrap up one of the subplots and I had actually forgotten about that character entirely. Contagion isn't that long, only about an hour and forty minutes, so I think it might have been better served by slightly expanding those subplots so you cared a little more. I felt like it was paced pretty well, so I might have benefited from a little more development in a few areas. I never caught myself checking my phone to see how far I was into the movie. I don't mind a longer movie if they keep it interesting.

Contagion was directed by Steven Soderbergh, who has a good track record with large, star-studded casts, but there was just too much going on here. This was written by Scott Z. Burns, who clearly is in love with MATT DAMON, as this is the third film he's written that stars him (The Informant and The Bourne Ultimatum were the others). Soderbergh has also worked with MATT DAMON a few times, so the DAMON-love goes all around.

Contagion is a pretty good movie for what it is. It's nicely paced, has a good plot and has good actors doing their thing. I didn't walk out of it disappointed or feeling like I had wasted my money.

If you want my recommendation for the weekend, see Contagion if you're in the mood for a thriller-type movie. Otherwise, see Warrior if you want something a little more action-based, with some family drama thrown in for good measure.

Either way, I recommend either Contagion or Warrior as a strong matinee this weekend. I think Warrior is the better overall film though.

p.s. MATT DAMON rulez!!!

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