Contagion Review
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Every so often, word of a new virus—possibly even an epidemic—hits the news. Right away, people get scared. They start slathering on extra anti-bacterial lotion and taking vitamins. Some even wear masks whenever they go out in public. But the brief bursts of fear and dread caused by the bird flu—or the H1N1 virus—are nothing in comparison to the worldwide panic of director Steven Soderbergh’s chilling new thriller, Contagion.

After a business trip to Hong Kong, Beth Emhoff (Gwyneth Paltrow) returns home to her family in Minneapolis feeling a little under the weather—but what originally seems to be just a bad case of jet lag soon turns into something much, much worse. When Beth has a seizure, her husband, Mitch (Matt Damon), rushes her to the hospital—but it’s not long before she’s dead.

Beth is just the first of a number of similar cases that surface around the world. As freelance blogger Alan Krumweide (Jude Law) reports on the outbreak, the public starts to panic, fearing the worst. Meanwhile, the CDC, the World Health Organization, and other experts race to identify the virus in an attempt to contain it and treat it.

Contagion is the kind of movie that will make you shudder in your seat. Just watching it will make you feel like you might be coming down with something. You’ll hear every cough that echoes through the theater. Your throat will go dry, too, but you won’t be able to cough, knowing that you’ll just attract the suspicious glances of those seated around you.

The story plays out exactly as you can imagine it would—and Soderbergh effectively depicts the kind of panic, paranoia, and mass hysteria that would result if some kind of mysterious epidemic were to break out today. From the Internet conspiracies and finger-pointing to the widespread looting and violence, it’s fascinating and horrifying all at the same time. It’s like a massive, global train wreck: you’ll want to look away, but it’s all so captivating that you won’t be able to.

Despite the huge ensemble of big-name actors, no one here is safe. The film doesn’t rest on its celebrities, keeping all of the famous people alive for some big happy ending. After all, Gwyneth Paltrow dies a pretty horrible death in the first few minutes of the movie—and she isn’t the only one to die.

Meanwhile, because the cast is so huge—and because there are so many different stories playing out in different parts of the world—you won’t get a chance to connect to many of them, which just adds to the sheer confusion and chaos of the film.

Contagion is definitely not for the germophobic or the paranoid. If you already buy hand sanitizer by the case, you should definitely skip it. But if you’re looking for a fast-paced and frantic fall thriller, put on your favorite respirator and head to the theater to check it out.

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