Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Contagion: A hypochondriac's worst nightmare

©2011 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.

If you've ever moved to another seat when the person next to you started coughing or if you constantly carry hand sanitizer with you, I wouldn't recommend watching Contagion. It contains enough coughing, sneezing, and disease spreading to freak out even a non-germaphobe.

With the semi-recent zombie craze (Is that still going on? I feel like it has kind of puttered out.), it's nice to see a movie that approaches the idea of a worldwide pandemic that doesn't turn people into cannibalistic monsters. While this isn't a completely original idea (the TV show Survivors springs to mind), I like the realistic approach that Contagion takes to the issue. It's an interesting idea because it taps into a "this could really happen" type of of fear. I don't know how accurate Contagion is, but I'm sure (well, pretty sure) it's much more realistic than an outbreak of zombies.

While I liked the realistic approach, Contagion is a little too dry at some points. I got out my laptop three or four quick times during the movie's more boring parts. As a whole, it's not a boring movie, and I certainly never wanted to leave at any point; there are just a few moments at which it becomes kind of dull.

Contagion doesn't devote a lot of time to character development. I'm don't want to complain too much about this aspect because the movie chooses to be plot-driven rather than character-driven. However, it would have enhanced the movie if I'd cared a little bit more about the characters. Most of my feelings towards them were simply derived from my feelings towards the actors (which was, I must say, helped by good casting).

In addition to somewhat weak characters, the characters' storylines feel really spread out, and I was hoping that they'd end up connecting better than they actually do. I understand that the movie wants to cover the many different viewpoints of a viral outbreak, but the end result is a disjointed effect. It would have been a poor move to force the characters together in a contrived manner, but I feel that a little more connection between the characters would go a long way in helping to balance the multiple storylines.

While Contagion does a fairly good job at creating a no-nonsense, realistic atmosphere, there are a few lines that stick out as particularly cheesy. The one that springs to my mind is a line about not having to weaponize the bird flu "because the birds are already doing that." The thought behind the line isn't bad, but its phrasing and delivery seemed to scream "this was written to sound cool in the trailer."

My biggest issue with Contagion was its ending. I'm going to try and refrain from spoilers, but the ending was very underwhelming. The movie ends fairly abruptly, and I found myself thinking, "That's it?" Contagion felt somewhat under-baked, and several of the storylines felt lacking in conclusion or depth. I feel like several of the stories could have taken more interesting turns, but instead, they just seemed to putter out without much purpose.

Contagion was okay movie that I mostly enjoyed, but I was expecting a lot more from it. I feel like there was a lot of wasted potential in it, and I have to wonder if it would have helped to drop a storyline or two so more time could have been devoted to the others. Now, excuse me while I go wash my hands, get out the Lysol, and move to Madagascar.

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