Part of the fun of 1970s disaster movies like Earthquake and Towering Inferno was wondering which members of their starry casts would make it to the final reel. Now Steven Soderbergh’s thriller Contagion allows you play a similar game of ‘spot the victim’, as the likes of Matt Damon, Kate Winslet, Gwyneth Paltrow and Marion Cottilard find themselves caught up in a deadly viral pandemic.
Working with a multi-threaded plot that cuts between ordinary people’s efforts to survive and scientists’ attempts to trace the origin of the virus and create a vaccine, Soderbergh builds a convincingly realistic picture of the chaos, fear, and death that might happen in such an event.
But while the film effectively makes one palpably aware of the ease with which a contagion could be spread, and the huge number of lives that could be at stake, it fails to really grip or be emotionally involving. Nor is it a Threads for the SARS generation.
At least Soderbergh is as unconcerned – up to a point - about his actors’ star status as a virus would be. So you might be surprised to see who ends up on an autopsy table with their scalp pushed over their face.
Originally published in The Scotsman