There are a plethora of apocalyptic, epidemic films ( “Andromeda Strain”, “Outbreak”, “White Blindness”); “Contagion” garnishes the prize for the most terrifying; it shrieks with viability and realism. Thomas Friedman expounds on the flatness of the globe; information spreads in a nanosecond; no filters, time to intellectualize events, robbed by electronics; like lemmings we devour the pulp that is ceaselessly served, mastication stunted by gluttonous, technological overload. Such is the premise of “Contagion”.
Steven Sonderbergh (“Traffic”) explores a lethal twenty-first century pandemic, that within a week comes close to destroying huge portions of mankind, worldwide devastation; individuality expunged, reduced to a maddening, looting mob.The message is blatant, formidable; the characters shallow, superficial; metaphors, tools to support the hypothesis. Gwyneth Paltrow, a faithless wife; Matt Damon, grieving husband and overbearing father; Kate Winslet, Lawrence Fishbourne, Marion Cotillard, Jennifer Ehle, doctors, saviors striving to salvage a slice of dignity, a cure to neutralize the chaos; loss of sanity in a world where reason is replaced by savagery; there is no antibiotic, vaccination for “man’s inhumanity to man”.
Jude Law as “Alan Krumwiede”, dentally impaired, has legitimate complexity as the opportunist, the blogger who spins his own scenario, a quest to make millions off the plague and touts his propaganda with “Elmer Gantry” furor . He is the poster boy for the greedy, heartless, pagan, exponent of self-aggrandizement; Law succeeds masterfully.
There is a reference to the 1918 plague that resulted in massive death, the toll higher than all the victims of WW1 but nothing comparable to The Black Death (1347-1351), erasing millions; contagious diseases swept Europe during the 1700’s; expansionist countries (England, France) imported infections from colonized continents. Medicine to battle the insidious contagion, eons from the embryonic, discovery stage.
“Contagion” is stellar in depicting the horrifying results, the speed in which an unknown poisonous phenomena can fell at monumental levels the global population. The naked, barren streets, sporting souvenirs of past inhabitants; lives no longer accountable, just detritus, ashes “gone with the wind”.