Contagion is the latest from US film director Steven Soderbergh. Best known today for the blockbuster Ocean’s Eleven heist movies, Soderbergh got his start as an independent filmmaker in the late 1980s, first gaining notoriety with Sex, Lies and Videotape (1989). For a time, he produced a number of interesting films, including King of the Hill (1989), Kafka (1991) and Schizopolis (1996). Beginning with Out of Sight in 1998, he moved more and more into mainstream Hollywood filmmaking. In between his major studio films, Soderbergh continues to work on smaller films which are ostensibly more serious and challenging. There have been diminishing returns on both fronts. Contagion is among the more serious-minded works.
The film concerns the spread of a deadly new virus and the social response to the resulting epidemic. The trouble begins when Beth Emhoff (Gwyneth Paltrow) returns home to Minneapolis feeling ill after a trip to Hong Kong. She is quickly overtaken by a mysterious disease, leaving her husband Mitch (Matt Damon) to pick up the pieces. Signs of the same illness soon begin to appear in cases throughout the world.
Dr. Ellis Cheever (Laurence Fishburne) of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) is approached by the Department of Homeland Security and given the task of investigating the new disease and developing a treatment. An Epidemic Intelligence Service officer (Kate Winslet) is sent to Minneapolis to investigate the outbreak, but makes little headway before contracting the virus herself. Efforts to contain the spread of the highly contagious disease come to nothing and millions become infected. Panic sets in as the CDC struggles to produce a vaccine to combat the epidemic.
Contagion has its moments.