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Critique On Movie “Contagion” 2011 Essay (Critical Writing)

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Updated: Jan 14th, 2022

Introduction

The biological catastrophe in the movie Contagion is enough to send cold shivers to anyone watching the film. Directed by Stephen Soderbergh, the thriller focuses on a lethal virus that finds its way into society. The movie is brilliantly directed. The plot is written in different viewpoints that range from the society itself and the representatives attached at the Center for Disease Control and Prevention to the government officials, all in an attempt to recognize the patient zero of the virus to come up with a cure.

Plot Summary

Most of the movies’ elements have been well brought out by the characters to explore a global catastrophe. When Beth Emhoff, played by Gwyneth Paltrow, returns home from a successful business trip with the flu, it is assumed to be a simple jet lag hence raising no cause of alarm. Her husband, Mitch Emhoff, played by Matt Damon, becomes concerned when she collapses but upon rushing her to the hospital, she dies. The cause of her death is attributed to a mysterious viral disease. What follows is a series of more people dying from the flu and the doctors are at a loss to explain the cause of the deadly virus that seems to spread very fast. The outbreak leads to the intervention by medical experts led by Dr. Ellis Cheever and Dr. Erin Mears to investigate the possible cures of the disease. To add to the panic, the director introduces Alan Krumwiede, a freelance journalist who causes more confusion through his blog.

A General Review of The Movie

Soderbergh succeeds to capture the viewer’s attention by integrating different characters to bring out the main theme. The theme depicts a possible worry that is bound to strike society at any time. The human race in the movie is being advised not to talk to anyone or touch anything. The viral disease is comparable to the pandemics such as bird and swine flu that hit certain parts of the world a few years ago. It is, therefore, a phenomenon that society has already experienced. However, the movie is recommended for its ability to convey an intense moment of mass hysteria which in turn leads to social disorder. The concept of helplessness in the movie has not been exaggerated hence bringing out the reality of the movie to the viewer. The exclamation by Dr. Ellis, ‘So, we have a virus with no treatment protocol’ shows the predicament of the health experts and government officials. Critics have however criticized the reaction by the government officials and the medical experts in the movie. Unlike in a real-life scenario, the government officials in the movie react in a casual manner by sending only one investigator to Minnesota. When SARS (Severe acute respiratory syndrome) hit Hong Kong in 2003, the government sent more than five experts to the region alongside other assistants in an attempt to contain the virus (Loh and Civic Exchange, p. 45). The rate of deaths in Contagion seems to elaborate a likelihood of a major epidemic compared to SARS or even swine flu.

Critical Reception: Scientific Versus Public Perspectives

The movie forms a basis of interaction between the viewers and the characters. This transposition, therefore, bears an ethical significance in one form or another. The character formation in the movie draws different reactions from the viewers. The movie introduces many characters who play significant roles in the film. It should be noted that the movie does not have a definite protagonist as it is in the case with most thrillers. The scientists have praised the roles played by the researchers in the movie by arguing that they did not sacrifice science for an action-packed drama. The driving emotional force of the movie concentrates on the scientific aspects of finding a cure for the deadly virus rather than the usual drama of the widower attempting to save his only child (Donovan, p. 63). The role played by the widower, Matt Damon, demonstrates a frustrated parent who is willing to go at any length to save his child in such circumstances. However, what the movie achieves is to instill fear in the public, not for the characters, but for the public itself in the real world. The public tends to be warier in their daily activities, and they are bound to keep to themselves in real life for fear of contracting such a viral disease during their social interaction. The freelance journalist plays a vital role to explain the powerful influence that social media has on the public. Contagion has a fantastic ending, one that scientifically introduces a vaccine. The vaccine is in a form of a spray rather than the usual injection. This brings a new perspective to the science world. It further places the burden to find a cure is such pandemics in the hands of researchers at the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

Conclusion

Despite the criticisms put forward, Contagion is a good movie that keeps the viewer captivated. It depicts nature at its best with a possibility of a deadly virus invading the human population. Such outbreaks have occurred in the past and the reaction by the characters in the film is not exaggerated. Contagion is, therefore, a must-see movie.

Works Cited

  1. Donovan, Barna. Conspiracy Films: A Tour of Dark Places in the American Conscious. North Carolina: McFarland Publishers, 2011. Print.
  2. Loh, Christine and Civic Exchange. At the epicentre: Hong Kong and the SARS outbreak. Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press, 2004. Print.
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