Movie Review: Contagion

I’m not entirely sure how this whole thing works, but I expect to be very busy the day I intended to post this. Therefore I wrote this the day before and put it on hold. Am I allowed to do this as part of my “blog every day” thing? I don’t know, but I do know that I make the rules, so ha.

Originally, I didn’t intend to see this movie at all. I saw the initial advertisements, and I figured “oh good, its this exact same movie again!” It took weeks for me to see past my own knee-jerk cynicism to remember that I have never actually seen one of these disease movies before. Like, ever. 28 Days Later doesn’t count either, because that’s really a zombie movie/British movie. Is British it’s own genre? It should be. And then I saw on Rotten Tomatoes that this movie was actually getting pretty good reviews, so I decided I’d go ahead and go see it.

Are movie reviews supposed to talk about other movie reviews? Am I breaking every rule? Is Ebert going to kill me in my sleep? These are the things I must ask myself every waking moment.

Anyways, the first thing I have to say is that it wasn’t what I was expecting. Not to say that I had much of an idea of what to expect, but from the ads I had somehow gotten certain incommunicable ideas about the sort of things that would be going on in this movie. Like, lots of riots and action and exploding disease bodies. What little disease media I have been in contact with (zing!) was mostly from the X Files, and diseases all shoot spores and goo in that show.

Rather than tons of action and dramatic gene sequencing scenes, Contagion is really more about the people who are trying to deal with the disease, whether employees of the Center for Disease Control or the World Health Organization, or just random people whose lives are affected by the disease (they get it, or someone they know gets it). While it managed to keep my attention throughout, I should warn you all now that it’s more like one of those slow paced but intellectually stimulating political movies than anything else. I can’t say it’s my favorite genre, but I can say that this is a fairly good example of it.

The cast all seems fairly realistic in what they do. People who aren’t supposed to spill secrets spill secrets. People with dying and dead loved ones freak out in understandable ways (no dropping to the knees and screaming “NOOOOOOOO!”, so the three and a half fans of the Star Wars Prequel Trilogy best look elsewhere). Some people make heroic sacrifices, while others attempt to profit from the situation as best they can. Perhaps most importantly, the disease itself is made to behave in a realistic fashion. It’s not a super plague that kills 99% of everyone who gets it, but it still causes all the panic and disorder that a deadly and novel virus ought to cause. One thing though: I never completely caught what kind of virus it actually was, but maybe I just failed to take the hints they were dropping. Animals were involved though. They always are.

Overall, I would recommend this movie to pretty much everyone I know who can handle a PG-13 movie. It’s smart, engrossing, and has just the right dash of humor here and there to keep things from getting too grim (but it’s still very grim).

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