Contagion (Steven Soderbergh)

A bat eats a banana, then spits it out over a pig pen where it is eaten by a pig. Here, the mysterious and deadly virus is born.

Gwyneth Paltrow is the first hit. She eats the pig in Hong Kong. Soon, fever turns to seizure and then is swiftly followed by death.

Once Dr Kate Winslet gives her ‘the average person touches their face 3 to 5 times every waking minute’ speech, the virus spreads very quickly indeed, with millions of dead celebrities piling up, mass graves are dug and mass hysteria ensues.

My problem with Contagion, was that it never seemed like a real threat. Yes, images of dead bodies were affecting, but there never reached a point equal to the fear cause by something like 28 days & weeks later or Doomsday, where there was a real sense of the apocalypse.

This wasn’t helped by the laughter in the cinema whenever someone in the audience had a coughing/sneezing fit.

However, I am drawn to the amount of information in the media pointing to how real the threat is or rather, how much research went into the film to make it as realistic as possible.

Soderbergh draws from real viruses like SARS and Swine Flu and was assisted by the World Health Organisation to create something similar to real cases.

The actors were trained by doctors in the epidemic field; Gwyneth learnt how to have a seizure and Kate was taught all the medical lingo, to make believable performances.

Soderbergh also hired Dr Ian Lipkin, professor of epidemiology, neurology and pathology at New York’s Columbia University, to be a senior technical adviser on the project.

Apparently, the spread of disease is something researchers in Warwick and Liverpool universities are currently looking at, with projects on the control of infection ongoing.

They started in 2008 and will finish next year, provided they get the £679,294 in funding from the Medical Research Council.

Dr Leon Danon, says Contagion will help his research by encouraging people to participate in trials. “Already we’re getting responses from those who have seen the trailer,” he goes on. “We’ve even discussed getting students to stand outside cinemas and hand out flyers.”

Soderbergh (Sex, Lies and Videotape, Erin Brockovich), has been in the media recently for announcing he was retiring as a director to pursue his painting, and then denying it. His next film to be released will be Haywire, in January, starring Michael Fassbender, about soldiers on secret missions betraying each other.


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