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Ronita Torcato

A little chit, a little chat, a little bit of this & that;meaning news, views & lotsa reviews from an independent journo based in Bombay aka Mumbai


movie review CONTAGION


Starring: Matt Damon, Kate Winslet,  Marion Cotillard, Jude Law, Laurence Fishburne, Gwyneth Paltrow,Elliot Gould,Jennifer Ehle

Director:  Steven Soderbergh
Could the virus in  Steven Soderbergh's new, star-studded film, Contagion be a metaphor for Original Sin? Ok, there's no slithering serpent as in the Garden of Eden but a bat (Eve?) eats of a rotten fruit, shares it with its mate, then a piece of the fruit falls  in a pig pen...poor pig who consumes it is despatched to market,to market in the company of others. It's lack of hygiene though, that passes on the virus (from chef who wipes his hands on his apron) to poor Beth Emhoff (Gwyneth Paltrow)

As we saw in his Palme D'or winning debut feature  ( Sex,Lies and Videotape)  mass communications is a subject close to  Soderbergh's heart; and  New media and media ethics  play an important role in "Contagion"
Like Wolfgang Petersen's Outbreak based on Robin Cook's novel about a lethal airborne virus, Soderbergh's medical thriller  is about a global epidemic which  spread by everyday interactions( handshake,credit card, glass) beginning with Mrs Emhoff who picks up the virus in Hong Kong. Or was it Macao? The docu-style feature was shot  at a number of locations around the world, including  the US  and Geneva and I wondered if the splendid Venetian on Macao's Cotai Strip ( move over Las Vegas:-) was one of them.

Soderbergh helms a fabulous ensemble cast, including Academy Award winners Marion Cotillard (“La Vie en Rose,” “Inception”) Matt Damon (“Good Will Hunting,” the “Bourne” films);  Gwyneth Paltrow (“Shakespeare in Love,” “Iron Man”);  Kate Winslet (“The Reader,” “Titanic”) and Oscar® nominees Laurence Fishburne (“What’s Love Got to Do With It,” “The Matrix”) and Jude Law (“Cold Mountain,” “Sherlock Holmes”)

Intelligently scripted by Scott  (“The Bourne Ultimatum,” “The Informant!”) Z. Burns,the film follows the rapid progress of the deadly virus. As the  epidemic grows, the medical community worldwide races to find a cure and governments strive to control  the panic-stricken  populace which behaves, well much the way, young people behaved very recently in Britain: going on the rampage.

We see conscientous researchers like Kate Winslet's  Erin Mears succumbing to  to the disease, we see that some ordinary people (Damon's Mitch Emhoff) have a natural immunity ( righteous person?) and and otherwise good docs like Laurence Fishburne's  Ellis Cheever  sharing classified info with loved ones - One uses the word "otherwise" in Dr Cheever's case, because he falls prey to nepotism. The term could also be applied to the selfish(?) HongKongers who want to save their village in mainland China and kidnap UN doc Leonora (Marion Cotillard) Orantes who remains true to the Hippocratic oath when she discovers that the kidnappers have been short-changed by a colleague. Equally admirable is  the woman virologist (Ehle) who uses herself as a guinea pig  even as her doctor father is felled by the disease. CNN's medical correspondent  Dr Sanjay Gupta    plays himself and Jude Law plays  Alan Krumwiede, a blogger who exposes the nexus between corporates and government but is not averse to being self-righteous and pigheaded that  homeopathy is a sure fire cure-all.

In his trademark style, Soderbergh adopts an understated and lowkey approach, dispensing with mayhem and melodrama. There is  no extended footage of Fear of Death and Life’s Final Moments except, as I  said before, some chilling footage of the aftermath of riots) And though the source of the epidemic is  Asia ( Cook's Ebola virus originates in Africa) it also shows how the wages of sin are death ( the adulterous Beth Emhoff passes it on to her lover) without being judgemental. All in all then, the film remains neutral,objective and balanced. The gloomy tone is alleviated with moments of  poignancy (Ehle & dying father) and (a teenage) romance.Contagion concludes with  stats from the Sars,HINI and Aids epidemics suggesting that this celluloid tale could well be real. We have been warned!


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About Ronita Torcato

Torcato Agnela Ronita
An incomplete round-up of movie news, features & views from an independent journo & (dare I say it:-) film critic in Mumbai



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