Steven Soderbergh’s Contagion is an eerie reminder of 2020—fear, social distancing and death all around—despite being released nine years before the Covid pandemic gripped the world. Unlike most films about epidemics that simply create chaos and run with it, Soderbergh simply allows the events to unfold, with little over-the-top histrionics to muddy up the narrative. The result is the kind of fear that became all to real in 2020.

Beth Emhoff (Gwyneth Paltrow) returns home to Minneapolis from a business trip to Hong Kong, after briefly stopping in Chicago to cheat on her husband with an old flame. She returns with what appears to be a common cold, but soon turns deadly. With her husband (Matt Damon) powerless to do anything, he returns home from the hospital to find that his stepson Clark (Griffin Kane) has also died from a mysterious infection. Assigned to investigate this new virus, Dr. Cheever (Laurence Fishburne) and Dr. Mears (Kate Winslet) seek to find the source of the outbreak, while scientist Ally (Jennifer Ehle) works against the clock to develop a cure.

As the virus continues to spread at an unprecedented rate, people across the world try to make their way in a world beset with death, rumor and fear. With the government struggling to provide even the basic necessities—a stampede occurs when one checkpoint runs out of Meals-Ready-to-Eat—things are exacerbated by Alan Krumweide (Jude Law), a rogue blogger who’s been following the progress of the bug since the beginning. He later claims he was sick with the virus and recovered using a homeopathic cure called forsythia.  But was he really ever sick?

As the days pass and the body count rises, the race to find a cure is gradually replaced by the need to keep the population from destroying themselves. Given the chaos and fear that occupied Covid, none of this seems shocking. Just like first responders, those trying hardest to help are among the first casualties (Soderbergh isn’t afraid to show members of his all-star cast in decidedly unflattering ways).

While a couple of storylines don’t work—Marion Cotillard is wasted as a World Health Organization official taken hostage—much of the narrative creates a credible portrait of a world turned upside down by something completely out of their control. Post Covid, Contagion will hit closer to home than ever before.

Presented in the 1.78:1 aspect ratio, the image is a bit dark, but it fits the bleak atmosphere. The movie’s digital photography looks just about as good as it ever could, with consistent black levels, and vivid colors when they do appear. Depth is strong, and detail is solid. Compression artifacts are non-existent.

The DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio is also quite impressive. Dialogue is audible throughout, and the musical score maintains an eerie feel throughout. Surrounds are utilized very well, making the track enveloping when it needs to be.

English SDH, French, Portuguese, Spanish, Korean,  and Mandarin (Simplified) subtitles are included.

This pressed MOD disc arrives with new artwork, no slipcover, and a Digital Copy code. Only the legacy 2012 extras are here.

  • The Reality of Contagion (11:29) Takes a look at facts vs. the story presented in the film. The featurette includes brief comments from producers Stacey Sher, Michael Shamberg and Gregory Jacobs, senior technical advisors Mark Brilliant, W. Ian Lipkin and Laurie Garrett, writer Scott Z. Burns, Global Viral Forecasting director Nathan Wolfe, technical advisor Mark Smolinski, production designer Howard Cummings, medical reporter Dr. Sanjay Gupta, and actors Kate Winslet, Matt Damon, Gwyneth Paltrow, Jude Law, Marion Cotillard, Chin Han, Jennifer Ehle, Bryan Cranston and Laurence Fishburne.
  • The Contagion Detectives (4:57) Most of the folks from the first featurette return to comment on the scientists who work hard to prevent outbreaks.
  • How a Virus Changes the World (2:01) Takes a brief look at how a virus develops.

Contagion (2011)
3.6 Reviewer

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