January 24, 2012

Don't talk to anyone. Don't touch anyone...

Don't reach out, don't touch anyone... I watched Contagion this weekend and lived to tell the tale.

Contagion follows the lightning fast progress of a lethal airborne virus that travels the globe and kills one by one and then million by million. As the fast-moving epidemic grows, the worldwide medical community races to find a cure and control the panic that spreads faster than the virus itself. At the same time, ordinary people played by Oscar-winning celebrities struggle to survive in a society ripping itself apart.

The movie is realistic and scary. According to Contagion, the average person touches their face two to three thousand times a day... and in between that we are touching door knobs, public toilets, car doors, and each other. So yep the next person to get lesions and die within hours could be anyone of us.

Kate Winslet is an Epidemic Intelligence Service Officer, whatever the hell that is, and does a graph of how many people each person will infect -- with small pox it was 3 each, with the flu is 1 person we pass on to; this is the "R-Knot", the contagion factor, and this new mysterious disease is spreading at a rate of 4. She is chasing down infected people to find the routing of the disease, while other celebs are out there following the infection clusters, testing for a vaccine, breaking the story, initiating a cover-up and controlling the spin.

Director Steven Soderbergh (Traffic, Erin Brockovich) fills the flick with stars, and at times the whole Love Boat Of Death factor is distracting; as there is a suspenseful plot but not much in terms of deep characters, I never forgot I was watching Matt Damon, Gwyneth Paltrow, Kate Winslet, Jude Law, Marion Cotillard, and Lawrence Fishburne. Damon is great as the everyman hero, though there is not much for him to do aside from mourn and worry; the rest of the characters are not so not so easily to relate to, and part of that is the distraction of wondering who is going to foam at the mouth and keel over next.

Contagion works because it shows the terror in everyday life, from pushing an elevator button to touching a shopping cart. It is terrifying and alarming.

Get me a surgical mask, latex gloves, full body Purell. Maybe a very large bubble. Don't touch me.

I'm not a hypochondriac, but this film will make you disinfect everything in site. And avoid public places. And human contact.

While it feels almost impersonal in some ways, Contagion is fantastic at depicting the fear and panic as it spreads. That is as scary as the disease.

While Contagion is not a fun movie, it is suspenseful and thought-provoking, and I am glad I watched it. I am especially happy I saw it at home rather than in a theatre, sitting on those chairs that other people sat on, walking on those sticky floors, touching those armrests... oy, I gotta bring a large amount antibacterial something next time I got a movie theatre...


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