WILL STINSON reviews a new disease-thriller flick that will have you sick with boredom.
Directed by Steven Soderbergh
Contagion opens with a predictable montage of people sick all over the world. Instead of staying indoors or going to a hospital, they’re coughing all over everyone and spreading an obviously infectious disease. So the shock on the world’s face when one in four people contract an unknown virus is laughable.
As the film progresses, naff and patronising subtitles tell us it’s ‘Day 1′, ‘Day 2’, and so on, as if the audience is too ignorant to know that time can only travel forward. As this tedious chronological reminder refuses to stop, neither does the epically monotonous drum ‘n’ bass soundtrack that suggests the film is going somewhere, even maybe towards a plot twist. Never mind a twist, any sort of plot other than the rudimentary story of a virus killing off millions, only for a scientist to create an effective vaccine and save the world, would suffice the patronising subtitling and rigor mortis-inducing soundtrack.
Avoid like the plague
The rich melange of acting giants such as Kate Winslet, Jude Law, Gwyneth Paltrow, Matt Damon, Marion Cotillard and Laurence Fishburne is put to waste. There are too many leading roles, all begging for their own separate plotline, that wrestle for a spot on the final cut. This is not helped by the appalling script (so awful, it’s beyond funny).
All of this could have been saved and turned around into a moderately enjoyable film if it wasn’t for an unimaginative director. It seems that Steven Soderbergh hasn’t really bothered at all. Soderbergh has not taken the script any further, allowing the film to jump from scene to scene, all over the world, with no sense of direction.
As the disease escalates and it seems that there is little hope for humanity, I end up not caring who lives or dies. So many of the main characters are killed off that it is neither here nor there which one survives this near apocalypse.
The film is so focused on the disease itself that the characters are left forgotten. If the actors were truly allowed to act, then the dodgy writing and questionable directing would have been acceptable. For half an hour, we’re stuck in labs not understanding scientific jargon about glycoproteins misbehaving, then suddenly we skip forward a few dozen days and the US President is underground, the States are in anarchy and there are conspiracy theories of a successful vaccination. When did this happen? Surely the descent of a country into unprecedented crisis would make for a more interesting view than close ups of computer screens?
There are moments in the film when you’ll be gripped for a second or two, but the scenes have obviously been harshly edited and are left with little in the way of emotive power.
From the director of Ocean’s Eleven and Traffic, I expected much more from Soderbergh. Well acted, but direly executed, the name ‘Contagion’ is the most exciting part of this missable drivel.