Directed by: Steven Soderbergh
Starring: Gwyneth Paltrow, Matt Damon, Laurence Fishburne, Kate Winslet, Jude Law
Steven Soderbergh has a very definitive style that works for some people and not for others. This movie didn’t do particularly well in theaters but that’s not necessarily a statement on the quality of the movie. It is a statement on how divisive the director’s approach to storytelling can be.
This film tells the story of what would happen if an epidemic took hold of the entire planet and rapidly began killing off people. The film follows several characters as they deal with different aspects of the epidemic from Laurence Fishburne at the top of the food chain making global decisions via the CDC to Matt Damon’s character left to by the death of his wife to try and protect his daughter both from the disease and from looters in their crime riddled community. In between there’s Jude Law playing a journalist convinced there’s a government conspiracy and Kate Winslet playing a field rep for the CDC. Soderbergh tends to do very indie looking talkie films and this is one of those. If you cross Full Frontal with Traffic you get close to the style of this film. I’ve always thought the Ocean’s movies were an anomaly in Soderbergh’s filmography (even though the first one is pretty great). So in the first act of this film there’s a lot of talking and exposition from each of the individual storylines that do eventually intersect. Initially the sheer number of characters might seem overwhelming story wise but the stories are so well rendered that it all does make sense and the stories begin to all come together to tell a single larger story.
Contagion is a lengthy film but it’s extremely well-acted and the story becomes more and more taught as it progresses. There’s a truly unique atmosphere throughout this film that’s just not common to this sort of story. In a way it almost feels documentary like which makes the proceedings even more impactful. When people die it truly feels like a loss. Damon, Paltrow, Winslet, and the rest of the cast all get great moments to shine. This film is an ensemble cast without a doubt. They craft a story that’s dramatic, slow but precisely paced, and it washes over you leading up to a shocking ending that literally takes your breath away. Along with the obvious overall story of the disease there’s another story being told in the film. What would humanity become if the entire planet were plunged into tragedy? Contagion doesn’t just ask the question it also answers it.
It’s a shame this film was so heavily overlooked in theaters because it’s easily one of the best of its kind. Yes it’s probably too long but there’s so much story here and so many characters I can easily see the first cut being substantially longer. For Soderbergh fans this film is one of the best in his filmography right behind Traffic, Out of Sight, and Sex, Lies, and Videotape.
The 1080p presentation here does a great job of representing the source material. The film was shot digitally and it features a lot different color pallets throughout the film that all look great. Even with yellow tinting skin tones still come off fairly natural in the film. Black levels still look deep and dark and whites don’t bloom too much. The film is compressed to a 25 GB blu-ray which makes the film feature the digital grain that’s common with digitally shot features but said grain actually makes the film feel even more like a documentary. It’s a little more crushed that it should be but overall it comes off pretty good.
The DTS HD audio is solid throughout the film with ambient audio in the rear speakers, the techno soundtrack igniting the base, and dialogue clean and clear in the center channel. Now this is a talkie film so there’s not a lot of whiz bang but the audio does feel immersive which should be the end goal of the whole presentation.
The Packaging and Bonus Features
The packaging is basic stuff and it features that ugly yellow tint that plays heavily in the movie. So yeah it is run of the mill but at least someone was paying attention to the color pallet. As far as bonus features there’s a PSA about spreading viruses, a brief factual discussion on the possibilities of a global epidemic, and another extremely short EPK presentation of the actors talking about their investigations into what a real contagion would be like. Wow these are poor bonus features for such a great film. There’s really not much more to be said than that.
Contagion is a groundbreaking and frightening film that’s flawlessly directed and acted. It’s a little long but other than that this film is outstanding. It’s too bad the blu-ray presentation feels so bargain basement.
Overall (Not an Average) 6/10
The Movie 8.5/10
The Video 7.5/10
The Audio 8/10
The Packaging and Bonus Features 1/10
Overall (Not an Average) 6/10