Friday, 21 October 2011

243: Review - Contagion

CAUTION: Yen's blog contains harsh language and even harsher notions of propriety. Reader discretion is advised.

Contagion poster

21st October 2011. Location: Cinema

The Premise: Wash your fucking hands. Yes, you.

As if I'm not paranoid enough about touching things that people have had their dirty paws on...

This might not be a great film to go and see if you're just starting a cold. Like what I am. No matter.
A sizeable chunk of Contagion is lingering shots of things that germy people have just touched; door handles, drinking glasses, mobile phones and what have you. Another sizeable chunk is filled with characters you can't bring yourself to like. Jude Law, for example, plays the deeply irritating Alan Krumwiede, a big-mouthed journalist and blogger*1 who spends the whole film being annoying about "the truth" until it's revealed that he was bullshitting all along and it's okay that you found him a bit of a dick. Oh, spoilers. Did I mention? SPOILERS.

Actually, there's not a great deal to spoil, as the trailer's already done a pretty good job of that. A lot of people get poorly and die. You see 'main characters' dying in the trailer, so all that's left is details, really. Luckily, the film's not so much about the spread of the virus*2, as the socio-political behaviour surrounding it. And that's not as dull as I've made it sound.

Sure, there are shades of "oh, the government's bad because they don't have cures for as-yet-unknown diseases lying around in ready-packed doses by the billion", and Matt Damon manages to be impressively dull as a character who's lost two people close to him, finds out he himself is immune, and then basically sits around the house bringing nothing else to the film, at all. Similarly, the sub-plot with Marion Cotillard as a kidnapped health worker had great potential, and then essentially came to nothing.

Given the basic fact that people who died from the new strain of Flu weren't going to get back up and bite people, I'd wondered before seeing it what the point of the film was going to be. After seeing it, a small part of me's still wondering. Other than being a 105 minute advertisement for washing your fucking hands you filthy peasants, it seems like it's pulling in different directions and covering no bases as a result. There's not enough of the humanitarian element to get you engaged on an emotional level, but there's too much of that for it to work as a thriller.

By the time the final scene rolls around, we get to see flashbacks of how the disease was first transmitted to patient zero, and it seems largely irrelevant. The stages we see unfold have been described verbally by Marion Cotillard about an hour earlier, and millions of people are dead by then, and a cure's been developed. So what does it matter?

A lack of zombie potential meant that part of me wanted to really dislike this from the outset, but when I was watching it, I couldn't do that. The other part of me wanted to really love it. I couldn't do that, either.


/// Now wash your hands. ///

*1 Americans have enough of a problem distinguishing British and Australian accents as it is (and I can see how, to be fair). So casting British Jude Law to do an unconvincing Aussie accent isn't going to help anyone, is it?
*2 Hollywood Virus Rule Number One: The first infected person must board an internationally-bound plane within five hours of contracting the virus. See also; Rise of the Planet of the Apes.

• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.

• This is a personal blog. The views and opinions expressed here represent my own thoughts (at the time of writing) and not those of the people, institutions or organizations that I may or may not be related with unless stated explicitly.

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