You should watch Contagion, but maybe not right now
The forgotten 2011 title is currently one of WB's most popular films.
Coronavirus, which first appeared in December of last year, has brought the world to a stalemate. With entire Italy in quarantine and several countries counting the number of infected in thousands, there is no doubt that this health crisis will have a strong effect on the world economy.
This includes the film and music industry, with festivals, events, and concerts being canceled or postponed. No Time to Die, the 25th film in the James Bond franchise and one of the most anticipated projects of 2020, will have its release in November, as opposed to the originally set premiere date in April. This is a decision made, presumably, both for financial and safety reasons.
And while this comes as no surprise in the wake of safety measures becoming stricter and travels being restricted or banned, recently a news story showed that not all content is affected the same. One film has found its way back from oblivion simply because of its topic. Contagion, a 2011 film by Steven Soderbergh, has jumped from a low 270. place in WB's titles catalog, to the second spot, surpassed in popularity only by Harry Potter. Whether to ease our fears or to satisfy our masochistic nature, Contagion has become the go-to title on iTunes.
For those of you who missed it almost ten years ago, this film portraits a pandemic that started in Hong Kong and is spreading with great speed, leaving a devastating effect worldwide, while the World Health Organization (WHO) and Central for Disease Control (CDC) race with the virus in an effort to track its origin and develop a vaccine.
Film intersects several stories - scientific and more personal in nature - in a tempo that never slows down, with both virus and the story moving quickly, and the editing leaving us constantly worried and in a state of panic. This leaves little space for a personal connection with the characters that are supposed to represent us - regular people - who are dealing with fear and grief on.
While the entire cast – including Matt Damon, Gwyneth Paltrow, Laurence Fishburne, Marion Cotillard - does an excellent job, one of the most touching performances was that of Kate Winslet, who plays an epidemiologist sent to investigate the origin of the virus in the US. A professional, who comes in with great force and knowledge finds herself personally affected by the disease and Winslet's performance as Dr. Mears leaves you heartbroken.
The specific feel of the film was the creators' intention. Scott Z. Burns, the film's writer, wanted to create a story that rings true and could happen at any time. To achieve this, according to his interview for comingsoon.net, Burns first turned to Dr. Larry Brilliant, who he has seen doing a Ted Talk on pandemic diseases. Dr. Brilliant later helped him reach other virologists and several individuals in WHO. And while the preparation for the film began before the flu epidemic of 2009, these events gave Burns first-hand look at the reality of all of our reactions in such situations.
The critical response and the response from the medical community was mostly positive. And while the film was deemed correct in the details depicting the origin of the virus, the way it could spread and the procedures used to get a hold of the pandemic, it isn't to say that the reaction was all positive. Most negative critiques mentioned that the speed in which film's characters receive data on the numbers of infected individuals, the mortality rate is much more optimistic than it truly happens and it is very unlikely to develop a vaccine in such a short time - which simply makes for a better story.
While there is hope at the end of the film, making it clear that the pandemic will come to an end and life will go back to normal, it might be pretty grim for most viewers. If you do decide to stream Contagion, one story is particularly cautionary and rings even more true now than it did originally. That is one of the journalists turned blogger, turned conspiracy theorists Alan Krumwiede –played by Jude Law. Quickly in the story, he becomes an unfiltered vessel for theories and gossip, causing panic and ultimately serving his own interest. In 2011, this was a problem, in 2020 internet conspiracy theories are a pandemic on its own, inflicting harm on the entire society.
The thing is, Contagion was and is a decent film. It is a thriller that manages to unnerve us while staying more factual than a lot of other titles. You should watch it, but whether this is the perfect time for it, only you can decide.