Do not touch your face while you read this. Seriously. You're doing it now, aren't you? Well, congratulations. You're going to die of pig-bat flu and then coroners are going to find green sludge in your brain during your autopsy and everyone you have ever stared at is going to die too. Are you proud of yourself?
"Contagion" is a great infection-induced paranoia movie. It spreads fear like those horrible PSAs from the 1950s - the ones that claimed every gay person was secretly a molester and that anyone who didn't share McCarthy-level patriotism was a Communist. Except in this case, the fear is offered up with a healthy dose of well-researched epidemic statistics and vocabulary.
Bolstered by an impressive cast including four Oscar winners and comedian Demitri Martin as a scientist, this film gives you a glimpse of what would happen if an apocalyptic disease spread throughout the world in a matter of days. More importantly, the film showcases those consequences at state, scientific and social levels. People die gruesomely, military squads quarantine healthy people with the sick; doctors and nurses refuse to work knowing that they'll be the first to take this new virus home to their families, fear reveals character and egos still get in the way of real progress. The suspense is palpable in a movie like this where there are people to love and hate, pity and mourn. Plus, we're a little overdue for a virus to decimate our species anyway, so you go in thinking that somewhere in China or the Amazon River basin or Tyler Haynes Commons, a new batch of superflu is just waiting for an unsuspecting cow or bird or mosquito to munch on it and pass it up the food chain. It's really our food's only means of vengeance, after all.
The only real problems with a movie like this come at the end, which isn't a conclusion so much as a fairy tale's 'never-ending' ending. Several character threads are left unraveled and many questions remain unanswered. I won't tell you what they are, but you'll leave wondering too. And unfortunately, this is another one of those films that creates its own specific set of circumstances in which to function. There are too many specific requirements for the ending director Steven Soderbergh and most of those requirements go out the window when dealing with a mutating killer. In real life, we would all have to be extremely lucky for everything to work out so well in the end.
Despite those problems, it's still a frightening film made all the more scary by its indifferent decision to kill off any and all of its main characters. But as long as you remember to wash your hands often and keep your hands away from your face, you should be fine. Should be.
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