MOVIE: *** (out of 5)
BLU-RAY EXPERIENCE: **1/2 (out of 5)
BY KEVIN CARR
When “Contagion” came out this past fall, I thought the marketing kind of missed its mark. After all, a movie about a deadly virus that has the potential to wipe out a quarter of the world’s population would have been a perfect release for cold and flu season. This was so evident when, in a crowded theater and someone inevitably coughs, you can hear people shift uncomfortably in their seats.
Well, cold and flu season is upon us and while it’s not being seen in crowded theaters, “Contagion” can now be seen at home. The immediate terror of hearing someone cough a couple rows back is gone, but considering most people will feel a tickle in their throats sometime in the next couple weeks, it can still cause a strong feeling of dread.
Steven Soderbergh directs the film, which is told in his docudrama style. It follows a sudden outbreak of a deadly virus from the second day of infection. Rather than sensationalizing it into an action film like the similarly-themed “Outbreak” from more than fifteen years ago, “Contagion” takes a clinic approach. The heroes of the film are the doctors and scientists at the CDC trying to wrap their heads around this microscopic killer.
“Contagion” relies on realism and shared media experiences to hit close to home, and it covers its bases. There’s the average people who are terrified of the disease. There’s the WHO worker who is kidnapped in order to secure the first batch of vaccines. There’s the media whore in the form of a blogger (showing some surprising contempt for the online media) who spreads disinformation. And then there are the doctors who work behind the scenes.
“Contagion” is gripping to a degree, though it is betrayed by some cliches in docudrama filmmaking, namely the overuse of non-specific narration presumably from news reports. At least these narration scenes are handled a little more delicately than they were in “Atlas Shrugged: Part I,” but it’s still a clunky form of exposition.
At the heart of “Contagion” is the fear of a disease that can send the world into anarchy, a scenario which seems extreme but is actually dangerously realistic.
The Blu-ray comes with a couple featurettes: “The Reality of Contagion” (which relies a little too heavily on fear-mongering media scientists selling fear-mongering books), “The Contagion Detectives” and the cute and clever but informatively animated “Contagion: How a Virus Changes the World.” The Blu-ray package also includes a DVD and UltraViolet Digital Copy for portable viewing and streaming.