The COVID-19 virus is making everybody else do the exact same thing. I panic bought some things, although my $55 grocery bill isn’t as bad as everyone else’s. The self-isolation part was more difficult for this extrovert. I resented the cancelled plans and watched movies and went on dates since the WHO officially announced that the virus was pandemic. But it’s been 17 hours since I left my apartment and just like the rest of you, I watched Contagion again, which is currently the fourth most watched film on Netflix.
Some of the photos on the film’s Facebook site has comments of people asking themselves why they want to watch this. That’s a question I probably don’t answer in this piece. I was only going to see it just so I can watch Mitch Emhoff (Matt Damon) defend his wife Beth’s (Gwyneth Paltrow) purity, but the rest of the film suckered me in. I thought was going to get Oscar gold. But audiences between Swine flu and now still don’t appreciate it as a top tier Steven Soderbergh film. My macabre sense of humor saw this as a satire of government inefficiency. But Soderbergh made this at a time when America actually had a government.
It’s still as one of the surprisingly funniest films of all time, but the humour comes less from systemic failure as it is about fallibility at a personal level. Dr. Erin Mears (Kate Winslet) works for the CDC under Dr. Ellis Cheaver (Laurence Fishburne), doing his best while trying to fight of misinformation from guys like Alan Krumwede (Jude Law). He’s a blogger, we’re not all like that. Anyway, Mears advises Midwestern Americans on what to do during the MEV-1 pandemic’s first days and deals with local, tight-pursed bureaucrats, only to die because she ate at a Taco Bell that one time. Soderbergh, who also shot this film under a pseudonym, adapts Scott Z. Burns’ script that captures the harried nature of having to contain a disease that might kill millions.
The cast is mostly 90s heavy but there are actors here serving as a reminder that this is 2011 film. Remember Demetri Martin? He plays a Dr. David Eisenberg who works for Dr. Ally Hextall (Jennifer Ehle) who works for Cheever. There’s also Marion Cotillard who, I hope, gets out of Dolittle hell and plays characters like Dr. Maria Orontes, the one she plays here.
Netflix’s version doesn’t have the title cards saying Day 2, or how long Cheever and his crew will take to find a vaccine. Which is probably for the better since there will be less comparisons between this fictional pandemic and the real one that the world is currently experiencing. This version of Contagion, appropriately enough, occasionally records time and action through windshields and computer screens. Which reflects times before and during this pandemic, when people saw everything through screens. Gravitating towards this film and its merits seems understandable now.
Contagion is available both on Netflix and through Warner Brothers’ website.
- Rated: PG-13
- Genre: Action, Drama, SUSPENSE, Thriller
- Directed by: Steven Soderbergh
- Starring: Kate Winslet, Matt Damon
- Produced by: Michael Shamberg, Stacey Sher
- Written by: Scott Z Burns
- Studio: Double Feature Films, Regency Enterprises
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