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CONTAGION (the movie): Wash Your Hands (OF IT!!!)

It was the night before the 10th anniversary of 9/11, the anniversary of not only the horrible attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, and the plane crash in rural Pennsylvania, but also the anniversary of the date on the note inside the ANTHRAX LETTERS.

So what better thing to do than go see the movie Contagion– after all maybe some new theory was in there or at least it was a chance to see a superstar cast and, anyway, the promotional adverts looked good enough (clue #1).

I won’t spoil the plot for those who do want to see this (or who wait for it to come out on Netflix or on sale in Walmart for 2 cents), but I can’t help but comment on my disappointment with this movie (and that’s being polite).

Here are a few bullet points for your consideration:

If you want to see Gwyneth Paltrow’s face, this movie’s for you, if you want to see her act, watch Shakespeare in Love,

If you are expecting the Matt Damon of Bourne Identity fame and not some hokie father figure who may or may not be suffering, go to Netflix

If you want to see a kindler gentler Laurence Fishburne, watch Contagion but be prepared to be bored and if you really like him in his moment, rent Othello,

If you have your eye on Kate Winslet’s career moves, skip this one.

And if Jude Law is your heart-throb, wait for the next Sherlock Holmes (unless you like him in plastic).

I almost forgot to mention the cameo-like appearances of the brave Elliott Gould who, fortunately, was much more entertaining in the Ocean’s 11, 12, 13 (there was a 13 wasn’t there?) series.

Now, about the plot.  You only have to watch the ads for this movie to know that the world is threatened with a pandemic, one that actually happens this time.  Beyond that, the movie’s TV-like style of jumping around between different settings and plots, leaves one without much of a central plot (or at least one that might be interesting).  Every time there’s an option for an interesting twist or turn or even the hint of a conspiracy the movie falls flatter than flat and stays on a very benign course.

Of course I have to admit that most of the facts about pathogens and epidemiology and epidemic preparedness were there, including a focus on making sure the audience comes away knowing what R-0 (pronounces “arr-naught”) means (and it means how many people an infected person would pass the infection to; so if a disease as an R-0 = 2 then one infected person would infect two others).

Two things about the audience.  As the movie ended it was quieter in the theater than after any movie I had ever seen. Curious (I had to cough just to lighten things up).  Secondly, on my way out I heard someone say this movie was not for germophobes (people afraid of germs) and, I have to admit that is true, but it’s also not for anyone interest in good theater, good acting, or good value-for-money.

Lastly, I expect that after this first weekend the R-o for this movie will be -1 (that is people who saw it will recommend their friends stay away).  Of course there will be those who want to be mean, and will recommend this to their germophobe friends and thus the epidemic may continue.  Who knows???