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Why the Movie Contagion is not Contagious

Tuesday, September 13, 2011 comments powered by disqus

Before we watched it, I was wondering why this movie isn't getting raves. Its director is Steven Soderbergh, the trailer is awesome and lots of big stars! So why not, indeed? But after watching it, I know the reason now. Actually, while watching it.. the first minutes will tell you why. It is flat, impersonal and got no climax or at least a character to root for, to care, or to hate. This is one of those movies of intent. 

Contagion presents a look at what happens when an infectious disease threatens humanity through varied viewpoints from an ensemble cast, including Marion Cotillard, Matt Damon, Jude Law, Gwyneth Paltrow, Laurence Fishburne, and Kate Winslet.

We've seen this treatment before and we are not complaining. The disapproval is not in the pudding. But in the main dish.

The movie presented a "big" problem that audience can relate but might not care. This big problem, or the disease that threatens humanity, for me, should be the starting point or a backdraft of a personal struggle and emotional conflicts. But in Contagion, it is not.

Let's look at some remarkable war movies. We have this backdraft called the war but that's not only the thread or the ride we are riding. We see soldiers in brave front but inside them are fears and terror. Behind the bombs and explosions, we will later find out and will get to know his wife in a far away country worrying about him. His children that are always asking when will their father back. Even if those scenes are not visible, we will still know somehow. Okay, bad samples. But you get the point there.

The soldiers' nuances on things important and trivial. Their patriotism or the lack of it. Their side stories and flawed side. We see war movies not only to watch how war unfolds. It is the story of William Wallace and how he died. It is the story of a father protecting her son amidst war in Life is Beautiful. It is the story of Ron Kovic paralyzed in the Vietnam war turning anti-war and pro-human political activist after feeling betrayed by the country he fought for. It is not about the war per se.

Same is true with movies of scope and intention this big like Contagion. It is not about that disease. I honestly think it should be about the human spirit and the imperfect character(s) that can capture our interest and imagination. Again, it is not about the war but the affected lives seen through the eyes of whom. 

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