Starring Matt Damon, Marion Cotillard, Kate Winslet, and Jude Law. Rated PG. Opens Friday, September 9, at the Ridge Theatre
All you people who don’t wash your hands after using restrooms, here’s hoping Contagion will so scare you that you’ll develop a personal-hygiene OCD. Really, Steven Soderbergh’s disturbingly realistic sci-fi thriller might so freak out those of us who wouldn’t dream of sticking our paws into those bowls of cocktail peanuts in bars that we’ll probably end up fetal-curling in our bedroom closets.
Contagion is actually very reminiscent of Soderbergh’s grittily riveting Traffic, except it tracks a fast-moving infectious virus instead of illegal drugs. (This virus will make you want to do drugs.) Once again, the director has nabbed a stellar supply of serious, credible stars to lead his hapless audience into in-your-face experiences with a global pandemic. You’ll feel like Malcolm McDowell’s Alex with his eyes propped open in A Clockwork Orange.
Matt Damon plays Mitch, a Minneapolis Everyman whose wife (Gwyneth Paltrow) returns from Hong Kong with a cough that they initially ignore but which makes us very nervous. Marion Cotillard is a World Health Organization investigator who heads to Asia to try to track the disease to “patient zero”. Kate Winslet, Laurence Fishburne, and the excellent Jennifer Ehle are doctors and a scientist, respectively, trying to keep their heads while heading off the virus. And Jude Law makes mischief blogging bioterrorism and pharmaceutical conspiracy theories.
Screenwriter Scott Z. Burns and the director who prefers hoisting that coolly detached yet penetrating hand-held camera himself build such an acute sense of dread, tension, and claustrophobia that it’s hard to watch people merely eating and drinking in a restaurant—let alone coughing on public transportation. But Cotillard’s detective work in Hong Kong’s casinos and office towers also makes Contagion a first-class piece of chilling, shocking suspense.
Now stop touching your face!
Watch the trailer for Contagion.