‘Contagion’ frightens, but leaves no lasting impact

Jessica Froula

People fear all sorts of things—spiders, heights, or even death, but Steven Soderbergh brings a whole new meaning to dread in his new action thriller. Contagion tells the seemingly typical story of a terrifying disease that spreads faster than it can be cured. Although the virus MEV-1 may remind viewers of movies such as I Am Legend and Outbreak , this film contains a much higher fright factor. From the first scene, the virus is introduced through Beth Emhoff (Gwyneth Paltrow), who is walking through an airport on her way back to her home in Michigan from a trip to China. Emhoff believes she is just suffering from jet lag, but by the time her husband Mitch (Matt Damon) gets her to the emergency room, it is already too late. The rest of his family follows. This is just the beginning of the worldwide epidemic that kills quickly and incites audiences to wonder “Who’s next?” The characters themselves, however, including stars like Laurence Fishburne, Jude Law, and Kate Winslet, are not well-developed, and forming an emotional attachment to any of them proves difficult. In addition, the characters rarely physically interact, conducting most business by phone to keep the infection at bay. As the panic and MEV-1 spread to Hong Kong, San Francisco, and other major cities around the world, the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, led by Dr. Ellis Cheever (Fishburne), and the World Health Organization become involved to attempt to find a cure and keep it from killing everybody else. Most of the film relies on events themselves rather than the presentation of these events, and it has no real emphasis on cinematography; indeed, Soderbergh relies on scaring the audience enough that they will not care either way who lives or dies or what they look like when that happens. Contagion is a film that keeps its victims riveted, and because it portrays a realistic disaster, viewers will have trouble even touching the door on their way out. And while it may leave people to worry for a few hours after the credits roll, don’t expect the movie to have a much more lasting effect than that. Overall rating: 6/10