Contagion: Finally! A movie that gets it right!
I super-duper-highly recommend the movie Contagion.
Now, I don't want to fuck with your expectations (and hence, enjoyment or appreciation) of this movie. So let me set some expectations that are reasonable without giving too much away.
This is not a very exciting movie at all. When I first walked out of the theatre, I felt very disappointed. And I want to make sure that no one goes into this expecting great action, or high suspense, or gripping drama, or any of that stuff. That is not why I recommend this movie.
In fact, my initial disappointment has morphed into enormous respect for this movie, and its director Steven Soderbergh--who is hit and miss (Ocean's Tired&Boring, but also Che and Out of Sight (Jennifer Lopez; wowzers; okay, maybe this is just me)).
So, do NOT go to this movie expecting much. If you find it boring or slow, just sit through it. If you don't like the characters, just let them be annoying. If you don't like this or that, just let it be disappointing.
But DO go see this movie.
Now, for why this movie is awesome ... Wait a sec, you have to see it first! Go away! Go watch it first! ... I'm not going to tell you until you watch it. Seriously. If you read this, then you may eventually see this movie and think, "Yeah, whatever", but miss the reason why it's awesome. As spoilers go, this is a pretty big spoiler. I already told you not to expect much, so seriously, don't expect much. But watch it first, okay?
<<<< SPOILERS!!!! DO NOT READ UNTIL YOU WATCH IT!!! >>>>
I've been wanting to write this review for over a week now. I saw Contagion last week and was disappointed, walking out of the theatre. I thought it was rather boring. Certainly not exciting. Nothing really new. No great drama. Flawed characters you couldn't quite root for (and a few heroic characters who simply die like everyone else).
And then I realized. This movie is awesome precisely because it is boring, doesn't do anything new, and has flawed characters (and heroes who die early). This movie is awesome because of what it isn't compared to what it could have been. It could have been another Hollywood plague disaster movie, or yet another zombie-virus movie with 'mutated DNA' and blah blah blah. It could have been action packed and high suspense (like Outbreak, which I loved also, but for the action and suspense, not for what makes Contagion great).
Watching Contagion was like watching a documentary. Or, to put it in a similar category, it was like watching 9/11 happening in slow motion. The key feature of Contagion is its accuracy to reality.
The virus could have been the result of an evil corporation making bio-weapons (as is hinted at the beginning and throughout the movie). It could have been created by the Chinese (as is also hinted). The vaccine could have been dangerous (as is hinted). The alternative cure could have been effective. The virus could have been 100% (or nearly) lethal. It could have led to martial law, or WWIII. But it didn't. Instead, as you only learn at the end of the movie--so if you're still reading this, go watch the freaking movie already--it turns out that the virus is simply a virus which has crossed the species barrier (which happens fairly regularly), which happened to be highly contagious and fairly deadly (though not even approaching 50% or the population, more like 10% or something, I forget exactly). The vaccine simply works, but can't be made fast enough to meet demand, initially. Yes, it's a global disaster, but nothing sinister or supernatural or fantastical about it.
And--this is big--the homeopathic cure doesn't work at all. And the corporation is just some random corporation that has nothing to do with the disease except for disturbing the environment leading to interaction between bats and pigs which normally would not have occurred. And the gov't is not entirely competent, but it's not as susceptible to military take-over as we might fear. And science fucking WORKS the way science really works, including the odd risk-taking once in a while. And cooler heads prevail. And all those crazy wacked-out 'possibilities' never actually come to pass. And life goes on.
The twist ending is that there is no twist ending.
That is what is unique about this movie. I cannot think of another movie that got reality so right. Or deals with irrational fears so head-on. Usually Hollywood sells out to whatever sells, regardless of how bullshit it is. Not this movie. This movie tells it like it is, with no exaggeration (aside from the basic premise of the existence of the virus). They even get fucking DNA right! Holy fuck! I thought I'd never fucking see the day.
This movie was disappointing. But I realized that this initial disappointment is actually what makes this movie so right. In the end, that initial disappointment is why I appreciate this movie so much more today. The actors in it took a big risk, and deserve a lot of credit. Steven Soderbergh, too. Unfortunately, this movie will unlikely make much money (just checked; it's doing okay, but not yet recouped its budget). But I would rather watch and promote a movie like this than some Hollywoood schlock-fest.