If anyone could wrangle a world spanning, multiple storyline filled disaster flick about a realistic disease that puts the world on the verge of collapse, it would be Soderbergh of Traffic (multiple storylines) and Oceans Eleven (wrangling a huge cast of big name actors) fame. (Aside: I don’t know what is it about Soderbergh that he gets these ridiculous casts of big Hollywood actors to play some pretty small parts, but more power to him, I guess.) Contagion is a movie about a super contagious flu that becomes a pandemic spread by Ms. Patient Zero herself, Gwyneth Paltrow, and involves such personalities as Kate Winslet, Laurence Fishburne, Jude Law, Matt Damon, and more. I know, right?
While it’s directed with precision and propulsion (I’m pretty sure the disease itself is the protagonist of this film), and while Soderbergh smartly uses the camera to make it obvious to even the rear seats about the paranoia and real-life terror he’s pushing (just try to not think about what you touch after seeing this movie), this movie is carried by its two lead actresses playing brave women who put themselves in great danger to save a lot of lives (they would be Kate Winslet and Jennifer Ehle). These are two very human performances in a movie that could be seen as coldly procedural.
And there does seem to be a vacuum of real, human emotion at the center of this film (and no, it’s not Jude Law, har har), but Soderbergh wants us to fill that with OUR reactions to this frighteningly real situation. How would you react? What would you do to save yourself and your family? Soderbergh doesn’t seem so interested in his characters’ choices, they hit their expected beats and some are played better than others…he wants to put the audience in the center. It’s fun stuff in a movie that could have easily been a terrible throwback to 70s disaster movies. Soderbergh, I know you’re getting tired of the game (and that’s probably why what you’re putting out these days are so inventive and slightly subversive), but I’ll see anything you do nowadays. (If you haven’t seen The Informant!, do so immediately, it’s one of my favorite movies of the past 5 years.)
Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming
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