Genre: Virus-Infection Thriller
Premise: Global chaos erupts after a killer virus outbreak.
Behind-The-Scenes: Steven Soderbergh (Ocean's Eleven, Out of Sight) directs. Features the "long-awaited" Talented Mr. Ripley reunion of Matt Damon, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Jude Law.
The Good: Soderbergh's crisp, sterile directing sensibility lends itself well to this paranoid thriller. He finds little details and uses subtle visual cues to really crawl under the audience's skin. Realistically portrays what might happen in the midst of a killer virus outbreak. Tons of star wattage - excellent actors are everywhere, even if they're not acting together in the same scene. Connects various vignettes to create a compelling story and moves along at a brisk pace, so the audience has no time to get complacent.
The Bad: This felt like the Cliff Notes version of the movie I wanted to see. There is so much story to tell here and so much going on plot-wise that, at under two hours, it felt like we weren't getting the complete picture. I wanted more, especially when you get into the decay of society (lootings, shootings) that this kind of outbreak would generate. I'm not saying I want this turned into another The Road, but I would have loved to see it as a ten-hour HBO miniseries. Also, I had to giggle at all the A-list stars' attempts to appear less glamorous: Paltrow and Kate Winslet wear no makeup, Damon gained some weight, Law has a snaggle tooth, etc.
Should You See It?: Yes. This is the virus movie equivalent of Love Actually. It's much better than the similarly themed Outbreak from 1995 (except here, Paltrow serves as the monkey). Just don't get caught coughing in the theater, as I did - you'll get concerned looks from everybody. Contagion offers smart, mainstream thrills for adults.
Rating: ***1/2 stars.