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Contagion (2011) - Sauntering Vaguely Downward [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]
Mad Scientess Jane Expat

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Contagion (2011) [20120331|22:17]
Mad Scientess Jane Expat
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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 - the husband of Patient Zero, the first person to contract the disease. 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. The timeline for the development and eventual release of the vaccine is also realistic - painstakingly slow and hampered by difficulties in mass production and distribution, as well as the misinformation spread by paranoid antigovernment snake oil salesmen like Jude Law (the irritating and criminally negligent Alan Krumwiede).

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. It is Jennifer Ehle's character who ultimately saves the world. It is Marion Cotillard's who rushes back to the village where she's been held hostage for a supply of the vaccine to tell them that they've been duped with a placebo. It is Kate Winslet's who organises the clinics that help to keep the sick from infecting the healthy. Most of the male characters fail badly in some respect. Laurence Fishburne's practices favouritism by releasing information to his loved ones before it is made public. Chin Han's turns kidnapper to save his village. Jude Law's is downright evil. He pretends to "cure" himself with a homeopathic remedy - off which he makes millions - when he never had the disease in the first place. 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.
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Comments:
[User Picture]From: chibaraki
2012-04-01 01:21 (UTC)
I totally enjoyed that movie and it made me terrified to touch a doorknob or a railing for about a week afterwards. Making everyone temporarily germophobic has to be some kind of mark of success for a movie about a killer virus.
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[User Picture]From: nanila
2012-04-01 17:05 (UTC)
I can see how the film might have that effect. I have to take the Tube almost every weekday, so I figure if a killer virus hits London, I'm doomed whatever I do. :P
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[User Picture]From: anokapolis
2012-04-01 18:09 (UTC)
I saw it when it came out, really liked it, in a way it speaks true to our world today, more connected ever, and also mostly it was about my home city, where Winslet goes and tries to limit the disease, mostly around University of Minnesota;)
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[User Picture]From: nanila
2012-04-02 12:45 (UTC)
Yes, it was very plausible. And it must have been both spooky and uplifting to see it all unfold close to home!
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[User Picture]From: thatdamnninja
2012-04-02 07:06 (UTC)

I really enjoyed it. I also washed my hands about fifty times that day.
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[User Picture]From: nanila
2012-04-02 12:44 (UTC)
It's funny that I didn't get the paranoid reaction at all. I suppose it's just because I figure that given the number and types of public transport that I have to use daily, I have no chance of avoiding a killer respiratory virus.
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[User Picture]From: imyril
2012-04-02 08:12 (UTC)
Amen. I thoroughly enjoyed Contagion, for all these reasons. As a lady person is also Patient Zero, that either gives us supreme agency or makes us the root of all evil. Or both (remember folks, being unfaithful will get you killed). Still, that doesn't in any way undermine the awesome - while I'm sure there may be a feminist rant in there somewhere, I think it's undeserved in context. </p>

And while I share your views on survival chances as an inhabitant of London, it did make me hyperconscious of how often I touch my face.

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[User Picture]From: nanila
2012-04-02 12:50 (UTC)
Yes, I'm glad the film didn't dwell on the lady person having - difficulties - with fidelity. I was also glad that it showed her unfaithfulness didn't instantaneously kill off her husband's love for her or their kids. The film wasn't free of problematic associations - witness the kidnapping of the White Lady Trying To Do Good by the Short-Sighted Asians, arrrrgh - but it handled them a lot better than it could have done.
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[User Picture]From: imyril
2012-04-02 13:10 (UTC)
Yes, absolutely - it didn't score brilliantly on racial filters (see also: black man in charge of CDC taskforce = win; but he and his wife then fail at keeping secrets = lose). I give Soderbergh a fair amount of credit, but I suspect he may have actively thought about gender filters (given his other film this year is about a female agent kicking ten shades of hell out of loads of blokes) and then didn't give similar consideration to race.

Nonetheless, still my favourite disease outbreak film other than 28 Days Later, which I continue to have an unhealthy regard for.
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[User Picture]From: nanila
2012-04-02 14:41 (UTC)
given his other film this year is about a female agent kicking ten shades of hell out of loads of blokes

*ears up* Oh! Have you seen it? Should I watch? I assume this is Haywire - it looks like the lead actress is a pretty hardcore fighter IRL!
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[User Picture]From: imyril
2012-04-02 16:20 (UTC)
I've only seen the trailer, but it definitely made me want to watch more!
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[User Picture]From: enterlinemedia
2012-04-07 00:24 (UTC)
I love Haywire and the star is an actual MMA fighter. Haywire feels like a 1970s action film.
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[User Picture]From: seismic
2012-04-02 14:06 (UTC)
One of my walks across the city was briefly interrupted for shooting. It was a bit eerie walking through the fabricated signs of civil breakdown. I and my bizarre relationship with the cinema have been meaning to see it, if only to try to identify that scene. Now I have another reason!
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[User Picture]From: nanila
2012-04-02 14:39 (UTC)
Yes, yes, please do. I think you'll enjoy it.
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