Catch 'Contagion'... Before it Catches You

The latest Steven Soderbergh film is captivating and psychosis-inducing.

Attention all germaphobes and hypochondriacs: Do not... I repeat... do not see the latest Steven Soderbergh film. You may never leave your house again. Hell, I may never leave my house again. 

The opening sequence of “Contagion” alone is enough to make the most cavalier among us -- you know the ones, those who eat the communal nuts at the bar or grip the subway handrail without the slightest hesitation -- recoil back into our movie theatre seats and think, “Oh, God. Did I really just rest my arms on... that?”

What would happen if a highly infectious disease spread through the developed world faster than a Lady Gaga hit? Worse than SARS. Worse than the swine or bird flu. The last time it happened, Laurence Fishburne’s character, Dr. Cheever, alleges, was the Spanish flu and it killed 1 percent of the population. Imagine that. What would it mean for your daily life? (Are you freaked out yet?)

Cue: Moody montage of pretty people walking and touching dirty things. 

No doubt, “Contagion” is absolutely mesmerizing. Within the first 20 minutes of the film, we watch multiple healthy adults convulse and die within days of developing a cough. A cough. I cough ALL THE TIME, I think. Clearly, I’m dying.

The actors are top notch and the cinematography is beautiful. But it's the stream-of-consciousness patter that runs continually through your mind that will really stay with you. It’s inevitable. We’re fragile humans, the film screams, and we’re hanging by a thread. It’s what makes it incredibly effective, but it does also smack a bit of sensationalism. It feels a little like Glenn Beck, crying. 

Moreover, although the beginning of the film is full of gripping tension, somewhere in the middle the film kind of dies in conjunction with all those dropping bodies. The resolution is nothing if not realistic. This quality is the film’s most effective sticking point but also its demise. In real life, problems don’t get tied up in pretty bows.

Take "Outbreak," for example. That flick is full of nail-biting action and clock-racing. It's very Hollywood. While “Contagion” is a little more pensive. Slightly lumbering. It gives you plenty of time to think about stocking up on canned goods and hand sanitizer. 

::Grabs keys:: I'll see you at , kids.

"Contagion" is playing at during the following times:


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