Sunday, September 18, 2011


When I started this blog, I had decided that I would not do movie reviews here. Don’t ask me why but that’s one of the things I had told myself. But after I watched this movie, I just had to write about it.

Contagion was probably the only movie, which was not only entertaining but appealed to my brain too. It was one sci-fi thriller I could actually watch without cringing once at the “science” involved. This movie was also special to me because it is probably close to the kind of work that I do. Ok that is not exactly what I do, but it comes quite close. 

Here's my take on the movie. Be warned, there are spoilers ahead.

Contagion has a star-studded cast: Matt Damon, Gwyneth Paltrow, Kate Winslet, Jude Law, Laurence Fishburne to name a few. But the highlight of the movie is definitely not the cast.

The movie is about a deadly pandemic and how the CDC along with other international research organisations and public health workers combat the challenges that come along with a pandemic of such magnitude.

It was a very well thought out movie covering all aspects of a pandemic and very close attention was paid to all the minute details. I read about how Prof. Lipkin and his team built a 3-D model of the said virus and then worked out how it would spread and evolve and how vaccines would be developed. They actually worked with scientists to plan the movie, no wonder they got the science right.

 The mass hysteria, which is brought about by various situations during a pandemic and the collective behavior of people is well depicted in the movie. The helplessness, the ignorance, the panic and the outrage of the masses due to lack of communication from the higher ups and the loss of social order due to that is definitely something to worry about during a pandemic.

I was also impressed by the accuracy of scientific protocol in the movie. The protocols followed, the steps needed to identify patient zero, the difficulty and the timelines to generate a new vaccine and the characterization of a novel virus are all dealt with precision. It was so different from the general “Oh, I’ll have DNA evidence in a jiffy” kind of depiction mostly made in sci-fi thrillers.

I thought it was nice how scientists were projected as people with lives outside of the laboratory. The nature of researchers and their obsession with their own research is well depicted. Dr. Sussman, in the movie continues to experiment on a cell line in spite of being given orders to destroy his samples but he is the one who comes up with a way to grow the virus. Also, Dr. Hextall tests the vaccine that she comes up with on herself first, violating several protocols. Yeah, scientists love to break the rules.

Jude Law-very annoying: both the actor and the character he played. He played the guy that scientists love to hate. The amateur blogger making false claims about a homeopathic cure and spreading rumours about quack medicine. I would agree that there was some truth in what he said about pharmaceutical companies and their mission to make money. There was an amusing line in the movie when someone said to Jude Law- “a blog is nothing but grafitti with punctuation marks” LOL!

The movie kept the audience at the edge of their seats all through. It gave the audience a scare of what might come in the future. In fact after the movie ended, nobody dared to cough or sneeze. Even if someone did, it was not without getting stares from people around.

The movie ended with identifying how the virus infected the first human being (patient zero). A bat initially harbours the virus. The bat then drops a half-eaten banana in a hoghouse where it is eaten by a pig. The pig is then slaughtered and is being prepared by a chef in a casino in Macau. This is where patient zero shakes hands with the chef who has not washed his hands and she gets sick with the virus. 

The lady sitting next to me in the theatre exclaimed, “Oh, it was the pig, who was responsible”.
“No”, I wanted to tell her, “It was the chef who didn’t wash his hands.”

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