March 31st, 2012

old-skool: science!

Contagion (2011)

I watched Contagion recently, a film that depicts the origin and spread across the globe of a highly contagious virus with a mortality rate of 25-30%. The virus later mutates and become more lethal. It was praised for, among other things, the quality of its portrayal of scientific research. I enjoyed it immensely.

It managed to pull together the threads of several stories without leaving the viewer baffled or dissatisfied. Kate Winslet played the field doctor (Dr Erin Mears) trying to deploy containment mechanisms for the Centers for Disease Control, overseen by Laurence Fishburne (Dr Ellis Cheever). On the research side, Jennifer Ehle (Dr Ally Hextall) races to find a vaccine for the disease. Matt Damon (Mitch Emhoff) plays an ordinary man - Collapse ) It is mostly through his perspective that we see the effect of the spread of the disease - the devastation wrecked by familial loss, slow and inadequate distribution of reliable information, panic buying of false cures, overwhelmed police and emergency services, and the eventual restoration of order. Marion Cotillard (Dr Leonora Orantes), working for the World Health Organisation, and Chin Han (Sun Feng) provide glimpses of the effects in rural China. All of these portrayals are as understated and realistic as possible. Collapse )

One thing that I thought many reviews overlooked is that this film provides absolutely magnificent role models for girls aspiring to become scientists and doctors. Collapse ) Most of the male characters fail badly in some respect. Collapse ) The women are the key drivers in the resolution of this film. Their characters are nuanced - they have moments when they act out of fear or haste or anger - but they are also overridingly intelligent, competent, perceptive and principled. Combine this with the tight pacing, the carefully woven plot and the positive portrayal of research and my recommendation becomes very enthusiastic indeed.