Sunday, 23 October 2011

Contagion, dir. Steven Soderbergh, wr. Scott Z. Burns, st. Kate Winslet, Laurence Fishburne, Jude Law, Matt Damon, Marion Cotillard, Gwyneth Paltrow

Like some extended episode of Horizon, Soderbergh's Contagion lays on the Drama of Science complete with sexed-up montages, college-cool bio-babble, and an urgent, pulsating electronic score (from Cliff Martinez). For such a star-studded show, there's a dearth of plot or characterisation. Deadlines are set up and met with predictability and, ironically given the film's death toll, it feels like there's precious little at stake. There's a low-key but wonderfully touching relationship set up between Fishburne's Ellis Cheever and the office janitor, played with grace and humility by John Hawkes, that riffs nicely on the idea of social ranking and the triumph of human morality, but elsewhere we're in familiar, hackneyed territory: never trust politicians or pharmaceutical companies, even at the point of Armageddon. Winslet, Fishbourne, and Ehle are perfectly serviceable, Paltrow less so, and Jude Law, well, I imagine him giggling all the way to his local Santander, fee in hand, guffawing at how people still think he holds any kind of box office draw. Without really having any central character anchors with which to personalise the narrative, unlike Fernando Meirelles' Blindness or David Mackenzie's more recent Perfect Sense that deal with the same viral concept but on a more intimate, human level, Contagion leaves you feeling somewhat under the weather.