Do you remember Outbreak, that sensationalized mid-’90s movie about a few CDC folk trying to locate the origin of a new virus in order to stop it becoming a full-blown pandemic? Contagion takes the outbreak to a much larger level - 28 Days Later proportions, to be exact. But instead of honing in on the reality of what it would be like to live through such an end-of-days events, Contagion is clogged with too many characters, too much plot and way too much subplot.
With more than a dozen key characters to follow, Contagion is the king of all ensemble pieces. But with a runtime of 105 minutes, there’s hardly enough to time to connect with any of them. In reality, the characters played by Matt Damon and Kate Winslet are the only ones that ever allow an emotional connection. (It’s shown in the trailer, so I’ll talk about it here) Gwyneth Paltrow’s character may have carried more weight had she not died in first five minutes. Marion Cotillard’s character is almost strong enough to connect with, but she’s not quite fleshed out enough and disappears before the end of the film.
The dense story of Contagion itself is just as bogged down as the emotional content with its characters. While a story of such nature should stir a lot of fear within an audience, the film is too clogged with various stories to ever express that feeling of realism. You never worry what it might be like should such a nasty virus spread in this manner because Contagion never takes the time to show you. It can’t – not with its 105-minute runtime. Contagion trades reality for congested story – a fatal mistake.
Sure, Contagion will make you want to wash your hands every five minutes, cover your mouth when you sneeze and smack anyone who doesn’t, but it doesn’t make you want to act on it. You’re not going to stop at Costco on your way home and buy an emergency preparedness kit. You’re not going to stock up on food storage. You are simply going to forget about Contagion the second you see a trailer or poster for a different movie.
Contagion doesn’t do anything more than Outbreak – and it sure doesn’t do it any better than Outbreak. If you’re considering seeing Contagion this weekend, skip it. Stay home. Who knows – you might get a catch something from the dude sitting next to you anyway.
Photo credit: Warner Bros.