Two very different takes on a killer bug movie.
I think this is my first ‘re-blog‘ or if not one of a few. As I’ve written elsewhere, I find some of the most entertaining conversations about films involves the ones we disagree with the most – like night and day, you loved it and I hated it or vice versa or both at the same time. Movies are entirely subjective experiences that involve a myriad of sensations and reactions, favorite flavors and personal tastes that inform your decision to be there in the first place – maybe your favorite director is taking you on a long overdue voyage to trip the light fantastic or the actor you’ve been watching since he/she made that no budget character study back in the decade before that has you curious and excited. Some films seem to come out of nowhere but all the critics talk about them as the ‘writing on the movie theater bathroom wall’ that a star was on the rise and that’s enough to sell plenty of tickets. Sometimes we just need an escape and the best rocket ship we know is at the movies for two hours at a time of senseless mayhem and extraordinary situations with laughs, tears, chills and fears. And then there are movies like Contagion that hold a different place for different folks, the science of the science of it, the combined effect of so many talented actors working with a celebrated director who very often shoots, writes, directs, produces, edits, and has a hand in almost every aspect of the production, and all these things line up in the celestial heavens of Hollywood and there you have it – Contagion.
I’m a recent visitor of Keith & The Movies but I was impressed with his writing and style. I stumbled across his review of Contagion and quickly realized we came up with not just different opinions but diametrically opposed reactions to this film. I mean we’re not only in different ball parks in different towns but we’re in different hemispheres on different planets in galaxies far, far away. I’m not suggesting he’s right or wrong any more than I’d claim my review is better or worse for having such harsh brass tacks hatred for this film. Well, maybe hatred is too strong a word. Disappointment? Lack of enthusiasm or perhaps I’ve seen enough ensemble films that employ the adage more is more because it’s more-better with more big stars in the story and I’m tired of the gimmick. I’d rather spend more time with fewer characters. That’s just me. What I think is the most interesting about this little exercise of comparisons is how we come to explore the film and the story with a lot in common – we both appreciate story driven narratives, good acting and structured filmmaking except we like the same things differently. We arrive at different places for similar reasons. Get it?
Keith was impressed with the cast and this carried him into the film whereby I found the actors didn’t have enough to do or their characters were given menial tasks and little in the way of specificity. He notes this as well, especially with John Hawkes character. I mean I don’t want to give anything away but lets just say several of the biggest stars have very small horizons. Where Keith appreciates the medical jargon and quick paced lingo I felt like it was lifted from any number of serialized television shows and just when I was looking for warmth and nuanced performances I got stuck with a lot of technology heavy plot mechanics. Maybe I’m still recovering from Marion Cotillard‘s brittle dead wife performance in Inception (my take on that film in general here and again here which too might be coloring me undeserving against Ms. Cotillard. I do agree with Keith that Fishburne (who was quite memorable in King of New York, I recently reviewed) is notable here as well if only that he is convincingly cold and authoritarian. It just makes me want to see more of him post Matrix. He’s got a lot more acting to do. I also agree with Keith that Soderbergh knows his way around shot composition and pacing but disagree that he achieves them to full effect here. Jude Law is just a good actor in just about anything he does.
So like I said, this really is my first time reblogging comparative movie reviews and I’ll just have to see how it goes. My take on Contagion on the one hand and Keith’s take on the film on the other sounds like it could be an interesting experience for all of us. This post is just a starting place that I hope invites you into the conversation, presents two thorough, detailed and well written assessments of this film and I hope you read each of them and then return here and discuss your thoughts and reactions. Of course be sure to leave some thoughts at both of the original threads to show your love and respect of all the hard work that goes into writing movie reviews. Just remember movie reviews are not about whose right or wrong but about the potential for movies to excite and reward the imagination and bring us all together to share the revelry of the cinematic experience whether we agree with one another or simply find ourselves challenged enough to care.
For more reading on the subject of this movie, the films and filmmakers referenced and the Bloggers involved in these articles, please visit:
- Could the ‘Contagion’ Sequel Mutate into a Television Series? (slashfilm.com)
Whether it be “Twelve Monkeys”, “Virus”, “Outbreak” or the new Steven Soderbergh project “Contagion”, I’ve always had an affection for end of the world, deadly virus movies. In “Contagion”, Soderbergh takes a much different approach than most of these types of films, choosing to give it a more realistic and clinical feel. I’ve heard it described as a “medical thriller” and that’s pretty accurate. We spend a lot of time with scientists and doctors from The Centers for Disease Control and The World Health Organization as they try to identify and find a cure for a ravaging epidemic. Soderbergh fills his film with an incredible cast most of which are perfectly utilized. None of them play the one key protagonist. Instead each are cogs in Soderbergh’s greater machine.
The movie wastes no time getting things started. Beth Emhoff (Gwyneth Paltrow) contracts a mysterious virus while on a business trip in Hong Kong…
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