Germs. You may not notice them now, but this movie may have its viewers avoiding human contact and ramping up on the hand sanitizer for a few days. “Contagion” is not a typical thriller film, but that is not to say it won’t have the audience sitting on the edge of their seats for every minute.
The film begins with Beth Emhoff, played by Gwyneth Paltrow, a businesswoman returning home from Hong Kong. We are introduced to her as she waits out the last moments of a layover in Chicago, struggling with what she believes to be a rough case of jet lag. Viewers soon learn that it is more than her assumption.
The film quickly moves through a montage of scenes, depicting people in different cities around the world becoming affected by a mysterious disease in rapid succession. Our focus is then directed to six individuals living in different areas of the world and how they are coping with their desperate situations. This film boasts an all-star cast including Matt Damon, Jude Law, Kate Winslet and many others.
Six main characters may seem excessive or even cluttered; I would agree, if this were any other movie. Somehow the story moves flawlessly from character to character, identifying connections between them and displaying their drastically different situations while never once deviating from the one major storyline: global epidemic. The audience is given the opportunity to observe this disaster from six unique viewpoints, allowing them to fully understand the story from every angle. Viewers will identify with each character, from a sufferer of the disease to the team of doctors searching for a cure.
Viewers experience the movie in every emotional situation possible, taking on the mental viewpoint of each character. The audience will identify strongly with characters, specifically that of Mitch Emhoff, played by Matt Damon, whose family is ripped from him by the epidemic. For this reason, some scenes in the movie are emotionally difficult to watch, yet a realistic representation of human nature.
Though the general concept of this film may strike some as outlandish or silly, there is a quality about the film that suddenly becomes frighteningly realistic to its viewers. Perhaps that quality is the reason it has been so well-received by audiences across the nation. According to Rotten Tomatoes, a website containing reviews and current statistics of recent films, “Contagion” has received a score of 84 percent from movie critics and has reached $44.2 million in the box office, since its opening on Sept. 9.
“Contagion” deviates from the typical horror/thriller formula by creating a genre of its own. It meshed the lines between documentary and drama seamlessly, remaining informative at times and then pulling the viewers into the movie’s most intimate human moments when most necessary. Viewers will be struck by the raw emotional scenes, but at the same time rely on them to remain grounded as the movie progresses in intensity.
An interesting aspect of this film is how it manages to tell the stories of so many characters, bringing the audience into the unique emotional experiences of each character without losing sight of the main focus.
“Contagion” ends just as abruptly as it begins, not letting up that fast-paced progression for the entire hour and 46 minutes, and it will leave audiences satisfied with its concrete finality, but also with a sense of deep consideration for humanity and human nature. “Contagion” is a must-see for those seeking a multidimensional film that is entertaining, frightening and thought-provoking.
By Rachel O’Kelley