Thursday, November 10, 2011

3 Short Paragraphs: Contagion

2011, Steven Soderbergh -- cinema

Ever since I read The Stand by Stephen King I have been fascinated with the idea of plagues. Fascinated might be too strong a reaction, probably more like thrilled by the fear it instills in me. Like zombies, the idea of something that we truly have little control over doing such harm scares me. Add to that the idea of human nature making things worse and it unnerves me even more. But the failing in most disease ridden fiction is that they never go far enough. Few are like King's novel in that the sickness is just a prop for the end of the world. Most are about the fear humans will encounter and the brave souls who will do what needs to be done to end the plague, but without losing their humanity. Most isolate the outbreak and have the cure found after only a few dozen or maybe even a few hundred succumb.

Contagion was almost an emotionless depiction of a disease that ravages the world, starting with the literal first case and ending with the vaccine.  It's clinical in its depiction, reserved in its drama. but it is also relentless sparing few, even award winning actors.  At its start the fear is heightened by the speed of the disease, the quick road from cough to death. This is no story about the rush to a cure but more the rush to containment and, when that fails, the slow plod to stability.

The movie draws more upon what we have been experiencing for the last few years, than from fiction like I mentioned.  SARS, bird flu, etc. are all things we have seen happen around us whether on the news or across the street, as I did when SARS was in the pubic view.  The combination of heightened nervousness and placid apathy is there as cities depopulate, governments impose draconian measures and sensationalists cash in. Is it completely realistic?  I am not sure as no matter what we have really experienced, we have never seen hundreds of people dying around us. The movie ends with an explanation settling in a fear that no matter how much we sanitize, something could just ... happen.