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Movie: Contagion (2011)

Nothing Spreads Like Fear

Contagion (2011) is a thriller movie about a fast-moving global pandemic that causes worldwide panic and fear as international medical organizations races to find a cure.

Synopsis: Upon returning from a business trip to Hong Kong, Beth Emhoff (Gwyneth Paltrow) becomes sick. Her husband, Mitch (Matt Damon) figures it's nothing to be too concerned about but normal flu. Beth and their young son soon die unexpectedly.

Over the next few days, more and more people become sick and die from similar illness. A global pandemic soon begins. Dr. Ellis Cheever (Laurence Fishburne) of the Center of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) leads the investigation to trace the pandemic's source. Working closely with him are Epidemic Intelligence Service officer, Dr. Erin Mears (Kate Winslet) and a scientist, Dr. Ally Hextall (Jennifer Ehle). On the other hand, the World Health Organization (WHO) sends Dr. Leonora Orantes (Marion Cotillard) to Hong Kong to track down possible origins.

At the same time, a freelance blogger, Alan Krumwiede (Jude Law) adds to the confusion of uncontrollable panic and fear as he accuses government elitists and pharmaceutical companies of exploiting the situation in order to milk maximum profit from the inevitable release of a vaccine.

First of all, don't expect an apocalyptic movie with exaggerating outcomes that seem far too unlikely in real life.
The outbreak in this movie is called MEV-1 and it's compared to outbreaks in our real life - e.g. SARS, H1N1, and the Spanish flu that claimed 50 million lives in 1918. This gives the audience a disturbing sense of panicky and thought-provoking realism, "What if this really happen? What will our response be?"

Another thing is about the truly impressive array of stars - Matt Damon, Gwyneth Paltrow, Jude Law, Kate Winslet, Marion Cotillard, Laurence Fishburne, etc. Some of them have rather short screen time but they play significant roles in the overall storyline. This contributes to both the strength and weakness of this movie. Its strength is the number of diverging subplots starring different stars that contributes to a realistic, interesting, and powerful story; its weakness is the restricted and rushed character development due to the big number of the main and supporting characters.

Overall, despite being not as exceptional as expected, this movie does make us think twice, thrice, or perhaps more about people sneezing, shaking hands, and anything done in the public. It's indeed scary.


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