In wake of this recent pandemic and subsequent lock-down of which I and the rest of the country and possibly the world are subject to, imagine my sarcastic surprise when I saw that a ‘virus’ film from nearly 10 years ago was one of the most streamed during the isolation period. I suppose the human race is funny like that.
What would be even more surprising are the people who are re-watching ‘Contagion’ because now having seen it for the first time, it’s kinda shit and I imagine the only reason people are watching it is that certain elements are representative of the times we are living in.
With that in mind, let’s dive in.
‘Contagion’ starts on ‘Day 2’ of a soon to be pandemic of ‘MEV-1’ where Beth (Gwyneth Paltrow) is looking a bit ‘rosy cheeked’ whilst travelling back to the US from China. Turns out, she’s the wife of Matt Damon’s character, Mitch Emhoff. She collapses, is taken to hospital and soon dies but I don’t have a great deal of sympathy for her because she did have a stop over in Chicago on her way to Minneapolis to have sex with someone who wasn’t her loving and doting husband. Clearly, this plot line was put in there to give it a reason to spread to other cities but in my eyes, cheaters get what is coming to them. Not cheating wouldn’t have saved her life but it would have saved a lot of other lives so…
This virus also spreads to Mitch’s stepson who also dies. Mitch is kept aside for tests and is shown to be immune which is great news for Matt Damon fans, but his immunity doesn’t help in any practical way such as killing the virus, just preserving his character throughout the film.
I suspect that ‘Mitch’ is representative of the ‘every man’. The person on the street who witnesses the effect of the virus from the ground level. When his daughter from another relationship, Jory turns up, he’s not sure if she has inherited his immunity and so a chunk of his sections of the film are trying to keep her safe. I don’t know why because she’s so fucking annoying.
She doesn’t seem to understand A) how serious the situation is, and B) how lucky she is to have to be quarantined in an era where the internet exists. This is the very reason why I’m not tearing my hair out at the moment. Whilst my STEAM library still works and I can still get onto Netflix and Prime Video, then I’m not freaking out. Having said that, If I didn’t have a job that required me leave the house, I would be doing exactly what I’m doing now in isolation which is sat at my computer, playing video games and watching films on various streaming services so no, I can’t identify with someone who leaves the house for fun.
At one point, her boyfriend turns up with a bunch of flowers to pay his condolences to Mitch’s dead wife and stepson but it’s clear that he wants to come in and see his girlfriend. Knowing full well that there’s a virus out there that is killing people, Mitch stops the boyfriend from coming in which he is right to do but the kid just won’t give up. Excuse me, the man said that you can’t come in. That’s the point when you leave.
However, Mitch does something similar frustrating thing when he tries to leave the city because he chooses to do so when everyone else has the same idea. However, the military has been mobilized and a quarantine is imposed which basically means, turn around. Mitch however chooses to get out of the car and approach the man the gun whose job it is to not let anyone leave and try and reason with him. What possible outcome did Mitch expect when he told the man the gun whose job it is to not let anyone out that neither him nor his daughter are infected? Did you think he was going to believe you and let you out? What about the city long conga line of cars behind you? Do they get to go if they say that they’re not infected too? You know what, Mitch? You have got somewhere if you were Matt Damon. But you’re not. You’re Mitch. So, get back in your car and turn around.
What other characters are there?
There’s Kate Winslet’s character, Dr. Erin Mears and I’m going to be honest, I wasn’t listening to a lot of what she said in the early scenes because I was too busy laughing at calling her ‘Dr. Erin Mear, Far, Wherever you are’. You know… because she was in Titanic.
Anyway, she works with Laurence Fishburne’s character, Dr. Ellis Cheever. Her position is ‘Epidemic Intelligence Service Officer’… Nope… I have no earthly clue what that means but apparently, it’s a real position under the CDC. Mostly, she goes around talking to people who are infected before becoming infected herself and then dying. Well that was a bit anti-climactic. It’s a shame Leonardo DiCaprio wasn’t in it to sacrifice himself and ensure Erin’s survival. O.K, that’s enough ‘Titanic’ jokes.
In fairness, she does work out that Beth is Patient Zero and the revelation sparks a detective mission to China where W.H.O. Epidemiologist, Dr Leonora Orantes (Marion Cotillard) teams up with Chinese Government Offical, Sun Feng (Chin Han) to retrace Beth’s steps whilst she was in China to… nope, I don’t know why they’re doing this. But that’s not why she’s in China. Eventually, Sun Feng kidnaps Dr. Leonora and holds her hostage with the other members of his village so they can get a batch of the vaccine.
Now. I don’t like any of these characters but the one character who I dislike the most would be Jude Law’s character, Alan Krumwiede. This prick is conspiracy theorist who is convinced that the government are a bunch of lying bastards and his antics in the film essentially make him the villain.
At one point, he alleges to have contracted the virus and once he develops the initial symptoms of a fever, a sore throat and a headache, he begins taking a homeopathic ‘cure’ derived from the plant, ‘Forsythia’ which comes in drops. ‘Homeopathic’ was your big clue to tell you that this guy is full of shit. After taking this stuff, he’s seemingly cured and goes forth to show that the government is ‘lying’ about there being no cure and then touts ‘Forsythia’ as the cure. People then begin demanding this stuff and go so far as to start ram-raiding pharmacies in pursuit of this garbage, ‘hocus-pocus’ medicine that has allegedly only cured one person and that one person appears to be making quite a hearty profit from it.
Of course, everyone else starts believing Krumwiede and not the scientists who say that this stuff from flowers is not the cure to this virus that is killing people because they don’t want people to know the truth. What exactly is the endgame for the government to not cure people? Why do they want a huge percentage of the world to die? I don’t know if you knew this, but people are necessary for this world that we like so much to function.
BUT, people like Krumwiede are exactly why people don’t trust vaccinations. If you believe that powdered rats droppings can cure the common cold, then more power to you but this highly infectious virus with an alarmingly high mortality rate needs to be tackled with science, you know, people who know exactly what the fuck they’re doing so getting Dr. Ellis Cheever suspended for having the audacity to engage his ‘human emotions’ and ‘instinct to save loved ones’ by telling his future wife to get out of the city before shit goes down really isn’t helping humanity, Krumwiede, you complete wanker.
Speaking of people who know what they’re doing, remember Monica’s dad from Friends? He’s in it and his character is Dr. Ian Sussman (Elliot Gould) and this doctor finds a baseline for Dr. Ally Hextall (Jennifer Ehle) to develop a vaccine.
Once she discovers the vaccine, she does what I would probably do when facing a possible eventual certain death which is to avoid wasting time by telling people about the vaccine and then scheduling trials and finding people who aren’t infected which is difficult by this point in the plot and instead of doing all this, injects herself with the vaccine and then goes to see her dangerously ill father and is incredibly lucky that the vaccine is a success.
That’s pretty much the end of the film. The rest is just wrapping up the various story threads.
Mitch schedules an impromptu ‘Prom Night’ for Jory and her boyfriend once he’s 100% sure that he’s been vaccinated and cries over pictures of his wife. I was begging that he find a picture of herself being all lovey with the guy that he knew she was sleeping with and be reminded that maybe she didn’t love him all that much and probably isn’t worth crying and also might want to think about giving Jory’s mum a call.
Dr. W.H.O. turns up in China to give Sun Feng the necessary vaccine to let Dr Leonora go free. Sun Feng keeps his end of the bargain and releases Dr Leonora but when they’re waiting for their plane home, D.R. W.H.O. reveals that the vaccine was just a placebo since they don’t negotiate with kidnappers and so Dr. Leonora runs off to warn them. I worked out that she wasn’t going to be held in a cell because Sun Feng isn’t that kind of guy and during that time, it’s shown that Dr Leonora has been teaching the kids in a makeshift school and doesn’t give the impression that she wants to leave. It seems that she didn’t contract the virus but she does contract a hearty dose of ‘Stockholm Syndrome’.
Meanwhile, justice is upheld when Alan Krumwiede is arrested and has his blood tested therefore revealing that he never contracted MEV-1 and therefore lied about curing it with plant-juice and making millions whilst the people who tried to treat their as then incurable disease with plant-juice figured out that this couldn’t be done because that’s not how science works as they died. Sadly, he doesn’t get sent to prison for ever and ever because stupid people like him and his stupid non-facts and therefore, they pay for his bail.
The very, very end is a flashback to a bat picking up a bit of banana and dropping it for a pig that eats it and then is slaughtered and sent to the restaurant in China that’s handled by a less than hygienic chef who shakes hands with Beth, thereby showing how the virus started.
In short, it’s a film that writes itself. It’s the typical ‘American disaster film’ plot. The world is faced with a problem; it could be a big ass storm or an alien invasion depending on the film, as the experts are gathered, it looks like the world is fucked but a solution is pulled from an arse that somehow manages to save the day and so the film ends with hope of normality returning somewhere on the horizon but millions had to die to get to that stage.
‘Contagion’ had a budget of $60 Million and made a whopping $136.5 Million which isn’t surprising given the big names that are attached to this and to be frank, big names are all the film has. But that’s not why we’re watching it, is it?
I know Mother Nature is a bit of a bitch at times and chucks viruses like ‘MEV-1’ or realistically, ‘H1N1’ or ‘H5N1’ or yes, ‘COVID-19’ at us from time to time. If people are watching ‘Contagion’ and trying to see what we can do to avoid the outcome, my suggestion would be to act in the exact opposite way that the writers think the general populace would be like in this situation.
There are some bits during Matt Damon’s segments that show people rioting and beating up other people for food and just generally setting shit on fire which makes no sense because once it’s all over, someone’s going to have clean all that up. Yes, the time when things will get back to normal does get pushed back when people keep setting things on fire. We have had people beating each other up over toilet rolls. Sadly, Stupidity is a virus of which there is no known cure.
If there is one thing that we can take away from ‘Contagion’, it’s that it’s not the virus that will be the end of us, it’s how we react to it. Don’t be fucking hooligans because that’s not what the world needs right now. All I can say at this time is what everyone other sensible, level-headed person is saying; stay inside, wash your hands and stay away from other people.
Basically, act like me when left to my own devices.
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