Genre Grandeur – Contagion (2011) – Blogging by Cinema Light

For this month’s first review for Genre Grandeur – Medical Dramas here’s a review of James of Blogging By Cinemalight.

Thanks again to Patty of for choosing this month’s genre.

Next month’s genre has been chosen by Todd of The Forgotten Filmz Podcast and we will be reviewing our favorite 80’s teen films

Please get me your submissions by the 25th of Sep by sending them to

Try to think out of the box! Great choice Todd!

Let’s see what James thought of this movie:


Contagion (Steve Soderbergh, 2011) “Night of the Coughing Superstars”
“Please Wash Your Hands Before Exiting the Theater”

It’s not nice to fool Mother Nature.  Or even to crowd The Bitch. Because, sooner or later, she’s going to look at all that nice smooth asphalt we’ve laid across her, and send up some crab-grass to seek out the weak spots and crack it.

“How do you like them pot-holes, Ozymandias?”

Steven Soderbergh’s “pandepic” Contagion fits quite well in the movie medical chest that includes such plague-filled films as Panic in the Streets, The Satan Bug, and The Andromeda Strain (one could also mention “The Stand,” I Am Legend and the recent Rise of the Planet of the Apes—even, if we’re talking Gaia’s uprising, such natural disasters as The Happening (2008) and The Birds)—an organized, technologically advanced, scientifically-disciplined infrastructure is helpless against a simple organism that spreads through the sheer inevitability of exponentiality.  

It also cross-germinates into the “Butterfly Effect” genre (see Babel, 21 Grams, Crash)—you know, where we’re all so interconnected that if a butterfly sneezes in China, we’d better cover our mouths in the United States or else we’ll keel over into the Stone Age.  And with so many stars (all very good, actually), it also reminds of one of those Irwin Allen SAG-slaughter disaster movies of the 1970’s, that featured tag-lines like: “Who Will Survive?”

Contagion comes a few years after the majority of us could dismiss SARS and H1N1 in the real world with a blithe “where’s the pandemic?” (completely dismissing such very real threats as AIDS and the hair-trigger Ebola and Marburg viruses). But, it is chilling that with all our research capabilities, we’d still be running behind any new threat, simply because the little suckers can evolve faster in the gut than we can be creationists in the lab. And Scott Z. Burns (who wrote Soderbergh’s The Informant! and was updating “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.” for him) has taken an…er…clinical approach with his screenplay, starting moments after “first contact,” following the progress of the disease from China, to the United states, its spread and detection by the Center for Disease Control and their efforts to isolate the cause, and, possibly, find a cure. However fast they go (and it’s a process hampered by testing schedules and production runs…and which pharmaceutical companies will profit from it), it’s not enough to prevent wide-spread death and a near-collapse of societal structures throughout the world.

“It’s figuring us out faster than we’re figuring it out,” says one of the techs (Jennifer Ehle) to her boss at CDC (Laurence Fishburne)…and it doesn’t have a bureaucracy to work through. The drama is situational, so don’t go in expecting ambulance chases and LED countdowns to disaster, but, instead, situations where families are ripped apart, investigators become victims, and desperation becomes just another symptom. It’s a procedural with a widely-flung spray pattern.

The cast is amazing…Matt Damon, Gwyneth Paltrow, Jude Law, Fishburne, Marion Cotillard, Kate Winslet…and just when you think they’ve run out of actors, up turns John Hawkes, Elliott Gould, Demetri Martin, and Bryan Cranston…you half-expect the full cast of Ocean’s 13 to show up and cough out cameos. No one dominates, everybody underplays, and the heroics are human and low-key.

Nicely done, and food for thought, just wash your hands before eating.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a 2:00pm appointment for a flu shot.

One thought on “Genre Grandeur – Contagion (2011) – Blogging by Cinema Light

  1. Pingback: Genre Grandeur August Finale – The Sleeping City (1950) – Caftan Woman | MovieRob

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