Movie review – Panic spreads as fast as the flu

2011-10-21 13:39

Beth Emhoff (Gwyneth Paltrow) has just returned from a trip to Hong Kong and is experiencing flu-like symptoms. As much as she feels awful, she doesn’t rush herself off for medical attention.

But she doesn’t get over it, because it’s a potent and fast-acting new virus that first gives one the fevers and then kills.

Influenza has been known to kill the aged and infirm, but because the disease is felling the young and otherwise healthy, it draws the attention of pathologists across the world, who submit concerned reports to the authorities.

The US Centre for Disease Control, headed up by Dr Ellis Cheever (Laurence Fishburne), springs into action and spurs an international strategy to locate the source of the virus and contain it.

They must also, of course, try to either find a cure or vaccination, and time is of the essence, as the virus is multiplying exponentially.

This, then, is the premise of Contagion (Nu Metro), the latest film to spring from American auteur Steven Soderbergh who has, over the years, come up with films as diverse as the ground-breaking Sex, Lies and Videotape, and the disappointingly pretentious Ocean’s Eleven remakes.

To his great credit here, he keeps a handle on his subject matter and, while he builds tension masterfully, never lets it spill over into melodrama.

He concentrates on Emhoff’s husband (Matt Damon), Dr Cheever and his team, and a renegade journalist/activist (Jude Law), who believes that the government is in cahoots with big pharmaceutical companies.

Resisting the temptation of stereotyping his complex characters, Soderbergh avoids a simplistic scenario of “Good Guys vs Bad Guys”, and presents us with an interesting brew of real people caught in a race against time and a slippery virus.

The film is bound to spark a flurry of neurotic responses, and maybe pharmacies should capitalise on the opportunity to promote their hand-sanitising creams. 8/10

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