Remember back in 2008 when M. Night Shyamalan released his epidemic disaster movie “The Happening”? Remember how the only disastrous thing was the movie itself? Well now, 3 years later, we have another title in the same vein. Not Shyamalan, but Steven Soderbergh. Does this give you hope that it may follow a different route? That the idea of viral outbreak can be saved? Don’t hold your breath. Brace yourself everybody, history is about to repeat itself.
“Contagion” does pretty much exactly what it says on the tin. An outbreak of a deadly virus, people die, cue global panic. But after the initial thrill of the outbreak, very little actually happens. Sure, you have Matt Damon on a quest to save his daughter, but all this consists of is “Wear your mask. Stay indoors. Don’t touch anyone!”, and in a lengthy film such as this is, it struggles to keep an audience interested. Alongside this runs Lawrence Fishburne’s attempts to find and distribute a vaccine to the virus. However, much of this consists of men in suits, around a table, talking about...things. Lots of what they say is very scientific, and you wouldn’t be blamed if it washed straight over your head without any form of impact.
The most thrilling aspect of the film is the CDC, and the trials they go through to find a cure. Scientists from every country have been pulled in to help, and must work together to save the world - ridiculous movie cliché anyone? There is a clear attempt at creating tension and drama, as one character gets kidnapped and held hostage until they (the kidnappers) are given the vaccine. However, the lack of development meant that I didn't care about the characters, and barely even knew who the kidnapped person was, or what relevance she had to the rest of the story! Her kidnappers were also unknown to me, as was her rescuer. This is not good!
Matt Damon and Lawrence Fishburne are just two of the big names that have been roped in to make this film. Gwyneth Paltrow, Kate Winslet and Jude Law also feature, among others. However, despite the all star cast, there is nothing particularly notable about any of them. No standout performances or even any scenes that truly grab the viewer. In fact the best performance comes from a dead body at the beginning of the film!
The characters that these names play also have just as little impact as the story. Damon and his daughter are the central characters, and I suppose you should feel pity for them. However, due to sloppy writing and terrible execution, I felt absolutely nothing-for anyone! The way the film flicks through the lives of the various characters and scenarios prevents the viewer from making any sort of emotional ties. It’s clear towards the end, when Damon is looking through old pictures of his late wife, that the viewer is supposed to have their heartstrings well and truly yanked. But the total lack of character development doesn’t allow for this, and instead just adds to the list of tedious, drawn-out, uneventful moments.
Contagion had the chance to bring back the idea of a viral outbreak, and redeem it in the public’s eye. This opportunity has been squandered, and instead of making a tense thriller, we have been given a 2 hour snooze-fest. After a promising opening, an uneventful middle, and a brief explanation at the end (which also has no impact thanks to the rest of the film), it would seem that the idea of a viral outbreak should be quarantined and culled.
2/10 - Painful