Contagion [Blu-Ray] Steven Soderbergh

Contagion [Blu-Ray] Steven Soderbergh
Chameleon director Steven Soderbergh (Solaris, Traffic) demonstrates exceptional restraint in this depiction of a humanity threatening viral epidemic. Instead of relying on large-scale panic to create tension and the perspective of a handful of heroic protagonists to hang the human drama on, the smart script by Scott Z. Burns takes a balanced, realistic look at the micro and macro impact of, and response to, the unforeseen tragedy. Steadily propelling a narrative that would otherwise feel a bit slow, the numerous story threads are brought to life by an excellent cast. Mitch Emhoff (Matt Damon) is a man whose wife and son are among the first reported cases, while Centre of Disease Control executive Dr. Cheever (Laurence Fishburne) sets Dr. Mears (Kate Winslet) the task of determining the disease's origin while he controls the drip of information to the public. Meanwhile, popular rogue blogger Alan Crumweide (Jude Law) fans the flames of panic amongst his readers, questioning the government's agenda while pimping a homeopathic remedy he secretly has stock in. And chief scientist Dr. Hextall (Jennifer Ehle) works against the clock in search of a cure, while a World Health Organization employee (Marion Cotillard) investigating the outbreak in China contends with a village of desperate survivors. Not all of the sub-plots are equally developed, but they do all build towards a broad view of how people around the globe are affected as the structure of society is pushed towards a breaking point. Soderbergh's greatest success with Contagion is the elegant application of paranoia. Before there's an image on screen, we hear a cough. After a brief introduction to Ms. Emhoff (Gwyneth Paltrow), before she falls sick, the first of a number of montages that push the disease's spread forward between dramatic sequences casually highlights the germ trail of everything and everyone she touched. The spectre of what cost her personal indiscretions might ultimately have lingers in the background until day one of the outbreak is revealed in the final scene, giving resolution to her part of the Emhoff family's story fragment after the consequences have already been rendered moot. It's a part of Soderbergh's balancing act that doesn't fully pay off, but what we're left with is still the most sensible and effective dramatic thriller yet about a global pandemic. The special features are brief and informative, for the most part, with "The Reality of Contagion" looking at the science behind epidemic diseases and how social structures would be affected with professionals and the cast, and "The Contagion Detectives" depicts what kind of research the cast did to prepare for their roles, with Kate Winslet asking particularly insightful questions for character background. Wrapping up the disc with some out of place humour, "How a Virus Changes the World" is a whimsical, Bieber-fever referencing, animated, two-minute crash course in exactly what you just finished watching. (Warner)