‘1 Man 365 Films 365 Days’ – Day 296

#276/ 365 – ‘Contagion’ – 106 mins
Cinema Challenge #110 / 115

Two days after Beth Emhoff (Gwyneth Paltrow) returns from a business trip in Hong Kong, she’s dead – and the medics can’t tell her husband Thomas (Matt Damon) how or why. But before long, the virus that killed Beth is out of control. As panic spreads, scientists battle to control the global pandemic. Dr Erin Mears (Kate Winslet) is a researcher at the US Centers for Disease Control, working under Dr Ellis Cheever (Laurence Fishburne), while Dr Leonora Orantes (Marion Cotillard) is an investigator for the World Health Organisation – and Alan Krumwiede (Jude Law) is a crazy blogger peddling misinformation.

“Nothing spreads like fear” claims the tagline. While that might seem a little over the top a reaction, as you won’t come away in a paranoia filled state, wanting to wear a face mask and refuse to shake anyone’s hand. But in Steven Soderbergh’s convincingly scripted smart pandemic thriller and at times fascinating watching the whole world struggling to cope with the rapid spread of an unknown virus feels like it could be frightening reality, at times it did bring back memories of a couple of years ago when seeing such scenes on the news as the H1N1 swine flu was at large.

After an emotive first act beginning on Day 2, involving Beth Emhoff a businesswoman from Minnesota and watching the disease take hold of families. Contagion soon looses a little of its edge as it descends into a lengthy documentary and news feature full of stats and figures rather than human connection stories.

Soderbergh’s previous works like ‘Traffic’ and ‘Oceans 11’ shows he a filmmaker who enjoys creating high quality dramas designed to bring together some of Hollywood’s most A-List actors and Contagion is no different with its ensemble cast, though Damon and Paltrow are the characters that you connect with the most. Soderbergh crams Contagion with so many subplots that its thankful to have this accomplished cast on board, though many of these subplots would have worked as films in their own right.

Contagion is ambitious in its output to make it a frequently harrowing and entertaining watch in equal measure.

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