USA/Abu Dhabi
107 minutes

Steven Soderbergh's latest left-turn harnesses an all-star cast and a horror movie premise to a cool, calculated, almost hushed formalist tone: it's a medical thriller about a global pandemic set off by a deadly, highly contagious virus, shot with the detached, clinical distance of a scientist methodically working on the cure — or of the virus itself as it runs its unstoppable course. And, in doing so, Mr. Soderbergh effortlessly communicated that stunned, dazed, faintly surreal feeling of having lost all your landmarks and reference points, as the fabric of society slowly unravels while the disease gains ground.

     The director's modus operandi is to eject all the hysteria and heroics of standard Hollywood disaster movies or horror thrillers, and focus instead on an hyper-realistic look at how such a pandemic would spread, focusing on the emotionless process of finding a solution rather than the emotional histrionics of following the human arc of the catastrophe. Ironically, it is that precise detachment, that formalist, methodical approach to the script, halfway between the narrative latticework of his earlier Traffic and the coldness of 1970s dystopian sci-fi (Robert Wise's The Andromeda Strain comes to mind), that prevents Contagion from becoming a truly disquieting movie. Despite the occasional moments of empathy the all-star cast achieves (honours should go to Laurence Fishburne, Kate Winslet and Jennifer Ehle as members of the Center for Disease Control team trying to get a grip on the virus), the film becomes a sort of cerebral whodunit that moves briskly forward without ever raising its heartbeat above a tightly controlled, invariable metronome. Contagion is an admirably intelligent, smartly done, thought-provoking picture — but one that keeps the viewer at arm's length.

Starring Marion Cotillard, Matt Damon, Laurence Fishburne, Jude Law, Gwyneth Paltrow, Kate Winslet; Bryan Cranston, Jennifer Ehle, Elliott Gould, Chin Han, John Hawkes, Anna Jacoby-Heron, Josie Hu, Sanaa Lathan, Demetri Martin, Armin Rohde, Enrico Colantoni, Monique Gabriele Curren. 
     Directed and photographed (colour, digital intermediate by Fotokem, prints by Technicolor) by Steven Soderbergh; produced by Michael Shamberg, Stacey Sher, Gregory Jacobs; written by Scott Z. Burns; music by Cliff Martinez; production designer, Howard Cummings; costume designer, Louise Frogley; film editor, Stephen Mirrione.
     A Warner Bros. Pictures presentation, in association with Participant Media and Imagenation Abu Dhabi, of a Double Feature Films/Gregory Jacobs production. (US distributor and world sales, Warner Bros. Pictures.)
     Screened: distributor advance press screening, Columbia Tristar Warner screening room (Lisbon), October 3rd 2011. 


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