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A Film Diary

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Watched: 7 November

I sometimes feel that Steven Soderbergh’s films can seem a little rushed, and as a result certain entries in his filmography are a little rough around the edges (that’s part of the appeal for many people, and it’s hardly surprising anyway given the amount of films he directs and/or produces each year). Anyway, I think that’s the case for Contagion, a supposedly-realistic depiction of an outbreak of a deadly virus, which spreads quickly across China and the US (though not, apparently, anywhere else). Concentrating on a number of different characters in various locations, it zips along at a fair old lick, successfully capturing the sense of panic caused by both misinformation and shortages of medicine. There are implicit and explicit criticisms of bloggers, the media (who are quick to let any old voice appear as an authority on a subject without properly vetting their credentials), the nepotistic actions of those in government and large organisations and of human behaviour generally, but the film does strike some positive notes by the end. Matt Damon’s the only Soderbergh regular among the cast, playing a grieving family man, though Jude Law – an oily conspiracy theorist with a wide reach on social media – has worked with the director since this movie, on Side Effects. Elsewhere it’s a bit of a Hollywood who’s who, with the likes of Jennifer Ehle, Laurence Fishburne, Gwyneth Paltrow, Marion Cotillard and Kate Winslet popping up (before abruptly popping off in some cases). Soderbergh’s own muted cinematography – employing that slight yellow tinge on occasion – isn’t something I’m particularly fond of, and it sometimes feels as if there are too many stories crammed in together here to do justice to any of them at all. But it has things to say about the world, and it says them in a reasonably clear and concise manner. (***)

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  1. December 8, 2017

    Nice post. I agree with your assessment. Come to think of it, this is my favourite film of Soderbergh, and I don’t like many of his films. Half of this film watches like a documentary, and I admire that thing about this film; it is definitely an eye-opener on how a crisis like this one can unfold in real life.

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