Contagion

I just watched this movie with my parents. This is a film about a contagious disease that is spreading all over the world- it’s highly contagious- and first they can’t find a cure, but then somebody makes a cure and there’s a lot of Hobbesian anarchy throughout each stage of the disease.

I really liked this movie until the last five minutes. Spoiler Alert. The movie starts with the banner “Day 2” on the bottom of the screen. In the last five minutes the banner “Day 1” scrolls. Throughout the movie it has been explained that the virus is a mutation of bat and pig bacteria but they don’t really know it came to fruition. Soo fast forward to the end of the movie, “Day 1” shows a bat eating a banana, the banana tree plowed down by a truck from the company Gweneth Paltrow works for, falling into a pig pen, a pig eating the banana, the pig being butchered and sent to a chef, a chef cutting up the pig, then taking a picture with Gwyneth Paltrow at some promotional dinner thing. So, that’s how it started.

I don’t understand what I was supposed to take from this movie. They created this world where there’s chaos, that then gets resolved, then they show you how it started. But none of it is real. I don’t know. I guess maybe if it was a commentary on trust/information dissemination/politics I could understand ? There are these whole subplots with an outspoken internet blogger (Jude Law) who seems to be the voice of the unspoken underdog and against the evil minority in power, but it turns out he was lying the whole time. So, he’s untrustworthy. The government as it turns out is supposed to be trusted. They have a few people who do slightly unethical things (Laurence Fishburne telling his wife to get out of Chicago before they quarantine the city) but all these things are protected under strong emotional appeal to the audience, and you never really vilify the characters for them. After further consideration, it seems that the movie is trying to convince the audience that when crazy shit is happening, your best bet is to put trust in the government. Which, if you’ve ever seen Taken, you clearly know isn’t true.

There were three major threads- there was Laurence Fishburne and Kate Winslet who work for the CDC trying to find a cure tirelessly. Kate Winslet dies. Just thought you should know. It’s very sad. Laurence Fishburne like I said, takes a lot of heat for the thing about his wife (then girlfriend) but he sort of redeems himself later on by giving his highly coveted vaccine to his janitor’s son, instead of saving himself (YEAH RIGHT).  Marion Cotillard also works there, but she is kidnapped by this Chinese guy who wants her to save his village. In exchange for her, her agency gives them a cooler full of vaccines which we later find out to be placebos (assholes) and Marion doesn’t stand for this and instead runs out of the airport, ostensibly to go back to the village and somehow warn/save them. How and if she does that I don’t think we ever find out.

Gweneth Paltrow is married to Matt Damon, and she dies pretty early on, and Matt Damon finds out she was sort of cheating on him (awkward) but he looks past it. He and his daughter have a cute thing going- he locks her in the house, despite her love for their neighbor, Andrew-who looks like James Franco’s little brother, but it’s not. In my defense, halfway through the movie everyone starts covering most of their face with SARS masks so it’s difficult to identify. I got through a whole scene without realizing Kate Winslet was the main person speaking and I love her.

Like I said, Jude Law is this internet blog news media guy with gap teeth and a passion for I don’t know what. You would think it’s truth, but his big claim to fame is that he is pushing ‘Forsythia,’ something he claims is a natural cure for this disease. He has videos of him being sick and claims that’s how he got better/didn’t die, but later he is arrested because it was found he was never sick. But only if you believe that person, it just all seems like mudslinging and finger pointing to me.  The threads seemed to be the personal, the political and a fusion of these two. But I’ll say what I said after District 9 (which I really liked) what’s the point? I don’t understand these movies where they create a world, introduce a problem, then either solve or don’t solve it. I can’t figure out which is worse. Movies are important because they can transport you to a different reality, a different mental state, perspective, experience in a very intrinsic way. But, only if it means something to you in the real world.

In this movie it seemed like everything was out of control. Like, these things happen and they are awful and there’s nothing we can do about them. Blerg.

—————————————————————————————————————————————————–

It’s been a while since I’ve seen it and I still have a sort of sour taste in my mouth about it- but something promising is that I still think about it- it’s still rolling around in my head. This is good because it means I’ll end up watching it again, and at that point I’ll know better how I feel. A lot of movies I can’t tell if I like or don’t like after the first time I see them. But if something sticks with me and I keep thinking about it, I usually end up liking it simply because it’s different in some way and making an impression. It infiltrated something. I see a lot of movies and I never remember them, but if I keep thinking about it and want to watch it again, it usually ends up being good. That’s what happened with Mulholland Drive, or will happen when I watch it again.

ALSO a small complaint I had about this movie was that there were so many famous people, I feel they weren’t used properly. Like, they each had a handful of scenes but I didn’t feel like any of the characters were explored to their full potential. Except maybe Matt Damon? Also they keep dying so that got in the way of their character development too I suppose. It just feels like ever since Paris, je t’aime everyone thinks that if you just put a shit ton of famous people in a movie it’ll be good. CLEARLY not the case as is proven by exhibits: Valentine’s Day, New Years Eve and all those other over-cameoed train wrecks. AND every animated movie that has a cast list as long as Pinnochio’s nose in the scene where he’s lying. But that’s neither here nor there.

Also it’s interesting that the tagline for this movie is “Nothing spreads like fear.” I mean clearly who ever wrote that has never come across peanut butter, but that’s beside the point. Maybe it was about the reactions of the people rather than the crisis itself? More of a sociocultural (I went to college) study than a plot based thing? That would make more sense. But good god, it took them some time to get there. And it was advertised/shot like it was this scary adventure movie, so for the emphasis to be on the psychological would be unexpected. But unexpected, like the Village or any other M.Night Shamalan movie that isn’t Unbreakable or The Sixth Sense. Unexpected in a cheap and bad way. I give up for now. Maybe I’ll make some amendments after/if/when I watch it again.

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One Response to Contagion

  1. scott says:

    I’m surprised at your puzzlement. This wasn’t some world, it was our world. The way it is now, with people who live in Chicago, or New York, (Or Durham, NC for that matter) going to China or India or Germany for a week. And unethical people (Jude Law character) using media to cash in/get famous at the expense of the pubic good. It’s also multi-national corporations developing the shit out of places that don’t have protections in place to prevent it. ‘Dumb animals’ who stop or delay way too many projects (from the multi-national, developer point of view) turn out to matter. And, despite all the trappings of civilization, we humans devolve into ugly mobs rather quickly under the right circumstances.
    I thought the movie mixed all these ingredients into a credible story (made more credible by the fact that the ‘Stars’ kept dying – see ‘Pyscho’ )
    Also, I liked the way they showed us how the whole thing got started. That was the other mystery going on – the first being a search for a cure.
    Anyway, those are my thoughts. I liked this movie.

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