Friday, September 09, 2011

Review: Contagion

Last night (September 8) I attended Contagion's press screening at SM Mall of Asia IMAX theater for Pinoyexchange. Below is my Contagion review for Pinoyexchange's Official Movie Reviews.

Contagion has a star-studded cast, but there are no heroes and villains among them and no character is treated above one another. The film’s true star is the story itself. You would be surprise that for a major Hollywood production Contagion chose to go to a different route in its narrative. The route might not be appealing to a regular moviegoer but it’s nevertheless effective in sending its message across.

Returning home from a business trip in Hongkong, Beth (Gwyneth Paltrow) got sick and was rushed to the hospital. What they initially thought was a simple flu ended badly. What’s worse the doctor could not explain to Beth’s husband Mitch (Matt Damon) what illness infected her. But Beth’s case was only the beginning as the contagion quickly spreads across borders creating a global pandemic.

The movie jumps from storyline to storyline as it contains several subplots, Dr. Chever (Laurence Fishburne), the director of the disease control prevention group, tries to allay the growing worldwide panic; Dr. Erin (Kate Winslet) risks her life to study and understand the illness; Dr. Leonora (Marion Cotillard), a World Health Organization officer, attempts to trace the source of the deadly infection; Alan (Jude Law) is an activist who dishes out via his widely-visited blog that a conspiracy between the authorities and the pharmaceutical companies is behind the so-called pandemic and Dr. Ally (Jennifer Ehle) races against time to formulate a vaccine to prevent the virus to spread out and kill more people.

Contagion is not exactly a thriller but the film elicits fear from its viewers because the manner the story is presented is so matter-of-fact that you would actually think that the events unfolding in the movie could possibly happen in real life. The director skillfully presented the process of virus transmission and how it easily passes on from one person to another. It was so effective that it wouldn’t be surprising that after watching this movie you would freak out when someone coughs near you, feel hesitant to touch stuff in public transportation or even avoid shaking hands completely.

The film’s structure might leave some viewers a little bored, the pacing is slow and contains a lot of medical jargon in the dialogues, but the film perfectly captured an atmosphere filled with intense tension and paranoia. The production values of this film is very impressive, they were able to illustrate a world facing an international medical and societal crisis convincingly.

The cast, including the lesser known actors, did a great job as they each give a solid and compelling performance for their respective characters. This is a good example of how a movie should utilize a large ensemble by giving each actor substantial storyline. However, due to the movie’s several subplots there are stories that got lost like Cotillard’s Leonora in which the character practically disappeared in the middle part although her story’s conclusion left a good impact.

The movie’s plot was too spread out that it’s quite difficult to wrap it up but the film still managed to conclude it in which the story comes in full circle. Contagion is not exactly entertaining per se but the film’s excellent direction and competent multi-layered story are more than enough reasons to watch this one. 9 / 10

"Contagion" spreads in Philippine cinemas today, September 9.

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