The Flick Chicks

Jacqueline Monahan's Movie Reviews

Contagion | Gwenyth Paltrow, Matt Damon, Kate Winslet and Laurence Fishburne | Review

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  4_Chicks_Small Jacqueline Monahan

Jacqueline  Monahan

Las Vegas Round The Clock
Jacqueline Monahan is an educator for the GEAR UP program at UNLV.
She is also an entertainment reporter for
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Breathe.  Now shake hands.  Now pay for your drink with a credit card.  You’ve just been infected with a deadly virus that you’ve passed on to your server, your dinner partners, and anyone else who comes into contact with you.  Then, THEY infect whoever comes into contact with them.

Director Steven Soderbergh (Traffic, Erin Brockovich) has crafted a scary as hell scenario that’s looks and feels all too real in this era of microbial mayhem.  Like an army of tiny assassins the virus, identified as MEV-1, invades the nervous system and eats away at the brain causing death in a matter of days.

First you sweat and become disoriented; your vision blurs and you pass out, sometimes accompanied by seizures.  Foam oozes from your mouth.  A short time later you are dead.  So are most of the people who rode the bus with you the day before.

Even the all-star cast is not guaranteed immunity from MEV-1 and a few Academy Award winners drop before your eyes.  So do pregnant women and children.  MEV-1 is ruthless, dropping 25-30% of the population it touches through airborne transmission.

With heavy hitters at the Center for Disease Control and the World Health Organization at odds over how to proceed with vaccine production, Alan Krumwiede, (Jude Law) an investigative blogger on the trail of who knew what and when, (think Wiki Leaks) stirs up a 12 million strong readership with disparaging information about the government’s handling of the crisis including the suppression of a homeopathic cure by profit-mongering drug companies.

There’s plenty of human conflict in addition to the fight against the virus, and two human guinea pigs emerge, each testing a different treatment on themselves.  When a vaccine is finally available after being rushed into production, a birthday lottery is used to dispense it.  All this is interwoven with global glimpses into everyday lives that are rapidly dissolving into desperation and societal collapse.

Soderbergh examines the political climate, ethics and the resultant mob mentality (looting, murder, rioting, and even kidnapping in one case) of an excluded, under-informed populace.  His skillful handling of interwoven, concurrent storylines tells the tale on an international level, and the second half of the film is filled with a large cast of characters all on separate journeys with the same destination in mind: survival.

The all-star cast is a formidable assemblage of talent that includes Marion Cotillard, Gwyneth Paltrow, Laurence Fishburne, Matt Damon, Kate Winslet, Jennifer Ehle and Elliott Gould.  Their roles can be described using crisis terminology: Paltrow is Ground Zero.  Cotillard, Fishburne, Gould, Ehle and Winslet are first responders.  Damon is a survivor experiencing a new reality in the aftermath of the assault.

Standout performances by Jude Law and Matt Damon put a human face on the viral decimation.  Gwyneth Paltrow’s short screen time is pivotal.  Kate Winslet easily fits the role of competent medical investigator and Laurence Fishburne embodies the ethical dilemma caused by privilege (access to the vaccine and vital information) over equality (everyone waits their turn).

The original music by Cliff Martinez mimics a version of a heart beating too fast, or perhaps a symbolic ticking clock heralding the extreme urgency of the situation.  Time becomes the most precious resource of all when you can actually hear the seconds slipping by.

With millions dead within one hundred days of the first case, and panic in the streets, human interaction, the thing we all crave, becomes lethal.  Blame it on a pig and a bat that converged in an accidental way with deadly results.  Blame it on slow-moving governments and cover-ups.

Just don’t blame your mother.  She always told you to cover your mouth when you cough, to wash your hands, and to stop touching your face.

See what happens when you don’t.

Four Chicks

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