Contagion (2011)


Contagion is dull, primarily because the protagonist is a random, impersonal pandemic which by definition is finally lacking drama, the dullness made worse because you don’t care about the people in the story, all of whom seem robotic, minimal and faced with trivial moral dilemmas in all-too-familiar roles in the exhausted storyline. They are victims. The pull is a very ordinary schadenfreude which is adverse to remedy, existent or sought.

In Contagion, therefore, the supposed heroes–primarily medical people frantically seeking a vaccine–do little but go through the familiar motions. So do the victims.

Said differently: this is a tired movie. The production facets of Contagion–directing, writing, acting–seem weary. The movie is a sleepwalk, its storyline watered down, its effect not scary.

Contagion is a strain of an actual contemporary entertainment pandemic, medical victimology. It is infecting much media entertainment these days: not only is it cheap and easy to present, but there appears to be an insatiable pop thirst for medical schlock, the stories of victims sick through uncaring Nature.

Wooden performances by Damon, Fishburne, Paltrow, Law and others.

The director, Stephen Soderbergh, directed Erin Brokovich. You’d expect more from a person of his talent in Contagion. But he wants to stay employed, you’re sure (as do the “megastars” who all play bit roles in Contagion and are probably glad to have them), and there’s nothing much in Contagion for Soderbergh to work with. That must be because of the cynicism about their audience among the powers that be in Tinseltown who finally green-light the movie projects. Maybe they’re increasingly right these days in their cynicism. But they can’t take much comfort here. After all, most probably they’re weary because nevertheless that audience, perhaps now more contemptible than ever to them, is leaving them.