Saturday, September 10, 2011

REVIEW: Contagion


Matt Damon,
Lawrence Fishburne


September 9, 2011

Steven Soderbergh

Warner Bros. Pictures

1 hour 46 minutes



It seems that I only come into contact with other critics when I make a comment on Facebook or YouTube that they backlash at.  This happened to me first back into July, when I came in contact with the great Roger Ebert.  He had given the movie 'Zookeeper' three stars out of four, enjoying the movie.  Having not seen the movie yet, I made a comment on Facebook about the review, which became a mini conversation between us two.  The same thing happened yesterday (9/9/11) when I came into contact with Ebert's former TV co-host Richard Roeper.  He had reviewed both of this weekend's new releases 'Warrior' and 'Contagion,' enjoying the latter between the two. (Yeah, 'Bucky Larson: Born To Be A Star' also comes out this weekend, but nobodies really going to see it.)  I hadn't seen 'Contagion' yet, so of course without thinking I make a dumb move and call 'Contagion' just a "germ movie" on his YouTube video page, to which he responds.  These two critics probably don't remember me, and they could probably care less about me, but still, they responded.

I knew I had to check this movie out as soon as I could, so I went to the earliest show on the Saturday morning on 9/10 and see if this movie was worthy of the 82% on Rotten Tomatoes.  Let me just say now that the movie was good.  Not a great movie as some had thought, but it is a well executed movie with more mystery than horror.  Think of 'Contagion' this way: if 'Valentine's Day' had good actors, and the plot was about a deadly virus spreading worldwide rather than dumb holiday romances, then you have this movie.  This is an indie drama/mystery disguised as a big budget end of the world thriller.  This movie will definitely find an audience, but I don't think that this will appeal to the average moviegoer.  You have to keep your mind thinking and remembering that there's six different main characters in six different locations worldwide.  There are people in this movie who you see for about 5 minutes and are absent for another 45 minutes, in which you completely forget that they're in the movie.  While it may be slow and have some rough patches in its 106 minute length, 'Contagion' has enough of a mysterious feel to make a solid recommendation.  Steven Soderbergh is a good director, which makes me want to watch the 'Oceans' franchise now more than ever. 

We all know the plot to this movie: a virus spreads around the world, and people are trying to survive.  It's like the zombie apocalypse when those humans aren't even dead yet.  It's a typical virus story with a somewhat predictable outcome.  For some reason, I wasn't scared of this movie at all.  Sure, something like this could happen in real life, but I just wasn't that terrified of this movie.  I wanted something that could scare the crap out of me every time I see it, like 'The Exorcist' chick, or Heath Ledger's Joker from 'The Dark Knight,' for example.  I wanted to see something that would make me sick to my stomach and give me that strong terror from within.  What you could call this movie is weird and gross.  When the people with the disease die, their mouths foam up and their lips turn to crisp.  During an autopsy scene, you see them get into a dead body's head, and you see them peel the scalp back.  Other than these disgusting traits, the movie isn't gross or scary at all.  This movie was like a two hour long 'Law & Order' episode with great actors dealing with a terrible disease.  Speaking of the actors, they all were pretty good in this movie, even though most of them were in the movie for approx. 20-30 minutes each.

The obvious focus of the movie when you watch the trailer is Matt Damon's character.  Damon plays Mitch, the guy who's wife (Paltrow) and step son are suddenly infected by the mysterious disease and die because of it, while he is supposedly immune from the virus.  For the entire movie, he is trying to protect his daughter from the disease, even if that means house arrest.  If my memory serves me right, Matt Damon was the only character in this movie who was isolated from everyone else, other than Gwyneth Paltrow, and Kate Winslet in one scene.  Damon's performance wasn't bad, but director Soderbergh could have made his role just about as small as Paltrow's character, or just written things that had something to do with the government's attempt to cure the disease.  The final scene involving Damon and his daughter in my opinion was highly unnecessary, and could have easily been cut from the movie to give the ending a bit of a bang instead of a light boom. 

The ensemble as a whole was all good, but there was very little screen time for all of the ladies for the movie.  Yes, I am including Kate Winslet in this sentence, as her role in the movie lasted 15-20 minutes.  Coltillard is in the movie for about 10 minutes, and Paltrow is just the guinea pig of the whole film, actually having screen time with Damon for less than 5 minutes, where the rest of the movie has her seen in pictures and security tapes.  Lawrence Fishburne plays the government official keeping everything under wraps, and Jude Law is the blogger chasing him to find out the truth.  These are the typical characters in an "end of the world/conspiracy" movie, and to me it is something that has been getting old ever since the 2009 disaster flick '2012.'  The cast as a whole are all very good actors, but they got stuck in an end of the world movie where things may or may not have a happy ending.

Despite some plot flaws and actors who are used both too little and too much, 'Contagion' is a good fall movie that will probably make a lot of money opening weekend.  With it's intriguing concept and the all star cast within, there is no doubt that this will be the popular film of the weekend.  However in terms of quality, I'd recommend 'Warrior' over this in a heartbeat, and don't even ask me about 'Bucky Larson.'  I don't think this is worth the price of a ticket, let alone the IMAX experience, which to me was a dumb cash grab made by Warner Brothers.  If you must see this movie, do what I do and go to see it at matinee price on a Saturday or Sunday morning.  I may see it again in a couple of years to see if I get a different opinion upon a second viewing at a different age.  But for now, 'Contagion' is good, not great fall movie.  If Richard Roeper is reading this, then I'm saying to him that I still stand on my opinion that 'Warrior' is this weekend's superior movie.  I believe that I would have loved this movie if it was scarier, and more grotesque than what I saw today.  I just found it to be a two hour political mystery that could easily be dubbed as the marriage of 'Valentine's Day' and 'Law & Order.'  To close this lengthy review, I enjoyed 'Contagion,' but you may like it more if you waited for the DVD/Blu-Ray release instead. 




The Thing

Mission Impossible:
Ghost Protocol

The Girl with the
Dragon Tattoo

Sherlock Holmes:
Game Of Shadows

The Dark Knight Rises

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