‘Contagion’ leaves viewers pondering

Justin Marietti

The director of the “Oceans” trilogy, Steven Soderbergh, has returned to the screen in an extremely disturbing fashion. His latest film, “Contagion,” is a thriller based on the massive spread of an unknown virus that has the ability to kill its hosts within a matter of days.

With a star-studded cast featuring Gwyneth Paltrow, Matt Damon, Laurence Fishburne, Jude Law, and Marion Cotillard, I knew that it would be difficult to walk away from this movie feeling disappointed. And sure enough, within the first 15 minutes, I couldn’t budge from my seat.

It wasn’t because I was worried there might be an infectious virus just looming on one of the other seats. Right from the beginning, “Contagion” sets a powerful, ominous tone that simply doesn’t let up throughout the entire movie.

Soderburgh is very effective in creating an element of fear, yet hooking the audience enough to make sure they couldn’t look away even if they wanted to.

The reason why movies like this tend to captivate their viewers is because if something like this did occur, everyone on Earth would be affected by it. We are intrigued because what we are witnessing could actually take place.

In addition, with recent incidents like the SARS and H1N1 outbreaks, the concept of “Contagion” seems to hit home even more.

The tagline to this movie is “No one is immune to fear,” and I think that’s exactly what Soderburgh is trying to prove. Everyone loves a good fictional story; but often times, the ones that seem to have the strongest impact are stories that we can relate to, or that could somehow affect our own lives personally.

If a widespread virus began to kill large populations across the world, none of us would be safe. “Contagion” brings this fear to the screen in undeniably brilliant form. Before the movie comes to a close, over 26 million people have died worldwide, and knowledge about the virus is very little.

I have to admit that “28 Days Later” crossed my mind as I was watching this movie. However, one of the biggest differences between the two (besides the obvious lack of zombies) is that this movie feels a lot more realistic.

A widespread virus would surely lead to widespread chaos and riots. We don’t need zombies to turn the world upside down; we do a good enough job on our own if something catastrophic like this happens.

As I have implied, the subject matter of this film is very serious in nature. It should effectively cause the majority of its viewers to want to run home and disinfect their entire home.

The only downfall is that it may bog down some viewers by feeling less like a movie and more like a research paper on the big screen.

There were brief moments of this movie where I felt like I was in the middle of a college course on epidemics. It resembles the feeling you get after a long night of drinking; at the time it’s pretty entertaining, but when it’s all said and done, you feel pretty nauseous.

That doesn’t mean that “Contagion” is all bad though. The fact that I felt such negative emotions actually just proves the effectiveness of this story. The subject matter of the film isn’t meant to be comforting in the first place.

Overall, I think this was one of the best thrillers of the year, and I left thinking about it for several days afterward.