By Mark Ramsey | 2011/09/26

Contagion: It’s the feel-not-so-good movie of the year!

Remember when we went to the movies to be entertained? Not to watch a slow-moving documentary about a fast-moving illness? I didn’t like Contagion when Dustin Hoffman starred in it in 1995, and I don’t like it now.

The entire world is getting sick – and also sick of Seinfeld reruns.  One more reason to stay home and watch Dancing with the Barely Recognizable Relatives of Faded Stars.

Contagion is a disaster film that features an all-star cast – plus Elliot Gould.

Elliot Gould!?

What, were George Segal and Ryan ONeal unavailable?  Was it “free cheese day” at the celebrity shelter?

Yes, all the stars are here.  I especially enjoyed the scene where George Kennedy saves Karen Black just as Karen was about to reach into a bowl of toxic cocktail peanuts.  My, we have come a long way from Earthquakes, Airports, and Towering Infernos.  The only thing Towering over Contagion is the deep sense that I should have been towering over my Netflix queue instead.

I knew Gwyneth Paltrow was going to trigger a worldwide illness the moment I saw her sing in the movie Duets beside that great thespian, Huey Lewis. Bad news:  Gwyneth is foaming at the mouth, which at least means what’s coming out of her mouth is interesting and not British-sounding.

I’ve been waiting for a movie to popularize inflatable clothes, and here it is!  Blow me up a Donna Karan, will you?  I’ll take that Hugo Boss inflate-a-tie, please. If it’s your job to make inflatable clothes, does that make it a blow job?

Before you know it, humans are dropping like flies, assuming flies looked like Kate Winslet and humans looked like Matt Damon.

Kate is a scientist, or as she pronounces it, a “scientolologist.”  Thanks to Kate we learn about the R-naught, which is the rate at which my boredom spreads, and it’s quickly approaching infinity. Watching Contagion is like sitting in a doctor’s office waiting room but with A-list stars who see the doctor before you do.

“Every person touches their face two- to three-thousand times a day,” says Kate.  “which is the same number of times the audience is rolling their eyes and impatiently tapping their fingers.”

Lawrence Fishburne is an official at the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

“One in twelve people in the world will get this disease,” predicted Fishburne.  “And eleven out of twelve will eventually be featured in a Reality TV show opposite Gary Busey.”  Advantage: Disease!

“The source of contagion is one part pig, one part bat, one part Kardashian.  One day cuddly puppy dogs will be responsible for a virus, but not today,” said Fishburne, pretty much consigning the prospects of an animated 3D version of Contagion, the theme park ride, and all licensing rights thereof, to oblivion.

So what did I learn from Contagion?

1. Director Steven Soderbergh must owe Elliot Gould a favor, now let’s hope he doesn’t owe one to Steven Seagall

2. The CDC has their own monogrammed coffee mugs

3. The more tan line Kate Winslet shows, the longer her life-line

4. Deforestation bad – clothes with blow-holes good

Who says movies aren’t educational?


16 Responses to “Contagion”

  1. J in Atl says:

    Your review is spot on.
    Contagion moved at a snails pace and there were lots of loose ends that left too much to the imagination.

    We never see Beth’s (Paltrow) lover. Mitch (Damon) is immune, but he never wears a sanitary mask after he is released from the hospital, even though he might be spreading the disease. What is Alan’s (Law) background and his ultimate motivation and most importantly, what is going on with Dr. Orantes? There is no concern regarding this high ranking WHO doctor’s disappearance until her transfer is negotiated.

    I understant the plot and the chemical warfair politics, but I would like a plot foundation that is complete. Great cast and acting though.


    Mark Ramsey Reply:

    How hard is it to act sick?

    Thanks for the note.


  2. Karen says:

    We are all entitled to our opinion, and I appreciate yours…with one exception. Are you saying that the casting of deceased people is better than Elliot Gould??


    Mark Ramsey Reply:

    You’re assuming there’s a difference!

    But my crack investigative team has determined that Mr. Segal and Mr. O’Neal are both very much alive, albeit for no good reason.


  3. emma says:

    I get that you’re trying really hard to be funny here, but I’ve read cleverer movie reviews in high school newspapers.

    Kate Winslet never said “scientologist”.

    I’m not really convinced you saw this movie.


    Mark Ramsey Reply:

    It’s obvious you spend too much time reading high school newspapers.


    Murf Reply:

    Good comeback!!!!


  4. markit8dude says:

    Awesome review, Mark.

    Between ‘Contagion’ and ‘Ides of March’, if I want to be preached to by sanctimonious, vacuous empty headed people I’ll turn on the 700 Club!

    The ‘it’ factor for these Soilent Green-like movies is the caricatures playing them.

    Sure, it’d be fantastic to save every starving man, woman and child on the planet. Hey, alternative energy that matches the energy prowess of the ‘eeevil’ oil product, sure I’ll get that emasculating Prius.. pronto!

    Though time and time again it’s the Cameron Diaz’ (if that woman doesn’t have the most hideous and natural joker mouth I don’t know WHO does) who says, ‘If it’s yellow..’ and yet provides their ‘environmental’ mockumentary on a private plane!

    Clooney’s another with his ‘Ides of March’ flick. Alternative Energy advocate? Really? I take it ol’ George has moved into a 600 sq. ft studio apartment, drives 1 pathetically weak, emasculating Prius and rather than flying to all the award shows stating how awesome he is, he’ll appear via webcam with a solar powered laptop too, right?

    How about Damon speaking up for the Wisconsin teacher’s during their latest kerfuffle about their union’s bargaining ‘rights’? The dude should just stay with what to wear, where to stand, what to say, how to say it etc.,

    On and on. Engaging these actors is likening to pulling teeth with no aesthetic. For they’re misinformed, ignorant in most regards, they’re in all meaning of the word, stupid.

    They’ve no personality of their own. They pick and dab on, like the makeup and ridiculously tight v-necked tees – characters from their prior/present movie roles, plays they’ve taken part in and combine them all. Like an amalgam blob.

    When ALL movies finally reach the CGI ONLY point, the preachiness slows or blessed be.. end (a guy can dream) and their character’s voice overs are Regular Joe’s, perhaps I’ll begin to watch movies once again with less cynicism.


    Mark Ramsey Reply:

    I’ve seen Clooney up close and I can tell you that he IS CGI. Mother Nature is just not that perfect.


  5. markit8dude says:

    ..err ‘anesthetic’.


  6. Suhaib says:

    I m gonna save this for consumption later on. I haven’t seen contagion yet, so I need to see the movie so I could enjoy the review. :D


    Mark Ramsey Reply:

    Consumption….is that a tuberculosis joke?


  7. Trish says:

    Mark, Your review contains just the right amount of vitriol for this movie. It was awful and I wish I could get my money back. Why would you have Matt Damon in a movie only to lock in him isolation or keep him in the confines of his home? The whole thing was unrealistic and I highly doubt society would deteriorate so quickly with everyone acting like complete lunatics (but maybe I’m just an optimist that way). I have one more question/concern: Please tell me those weren’t Jude Law’s real teeth.

    caregiving. family. advocacy.


  8. Endril says:

    This movie is squeaky clean, despite all the bodies, debris and chaos. Or at least that’s my impression. It is too impersonal, not deciding between being like a documentary or like a good old fashion thriller.
    The plot is kinda interesting until:
    - you start losing track off some of the cast (the blonde one/Kate Winslet gets sick, but which character is she?).
    - some subplots never get truly resolved and are left hanging.
    - you fail to get emotionaly attached to any of the characters.
    - you realise there are no main characters; this won’t be a bad thing if the script would offer you something else instead.
    - you realise the originality of the plot goes towards zero.
    - you start wishing the damn movie would end, with or without everybody dying.
    I am afraid this will became one of the movies that gets aired after 1 o’clock at night just to fill the programme for the chronical insomniacs.


    Mark Ramsey Reply:

    It’s like a two hour wait in a doctor’s office.


  9. It’s the second time when i’ve seen your site. I can understand lots of hard work has gone in to it. It’s really good.


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