September 9th, 2011
Scott Z. Burns
Summary: When Beth Emhoff feels ill at the airport, she puts it down to jet-lag. However within hours of returning home from her trip, she’s dead. But the highly-infectious disease she was carrying has already passed onto others. Before the infection can be controlled, it has turned into an epidemic. No-one knows if they have it until it’s too late, and medical experts have no clue how to start finding a cure or vaccine. Soon millions are infected with the deadly disease and, as panic sets in, society starts to break down – with people prepared to do anything for some sort of cure. Contagion follows the desperate attempt to save humanity.
My Favourite Scene: A scene which I found particularly interesting was when an Epidemic Intelligence Officer, Dr. Erin Mears (Winslet) gathered with a group of government experts debating what action to take. Mears was attempting to show the danger of not doing enough to stop the disease, while others were cautious of the risk of over-exaggerating the issue. The scene demonstrated the problem of whether to frighten people (ensuring they would attempt to protect themselves) or to deal with the issue calmly, but risk it spreading by keeping it quiet.
This scene highlights the theme of conspiracy in the film and poses the ethical question of whether it is ever right for governments to keep information from the people. Throughout the film, blogger Alan Krumwiede fights for the truth to be known – swearing that there is a cure that the government are keeping a secret. However in the end, Krumwiede’s claimed cure ‘Forsythia’ does more harm than good.
My Favourite Quotes:
Mindy Macready: Blogging is not writing. It’s just graffiti with punctuation.
Dr. Ally: Hextall It’s figuring us out faster than we’re figuring it out.
Erin Mears: Don’t talk to anyone! Don’t touch anyone!
My Thoughts: This film really captures the power of fear and panic in a society. Medical experts, including those from the Epidemic Intelligence Service and World Health Organisation, are alarmed at the rate of which the infection is spreading. However the government is afraid of unnecessarily worrying the public. This conflict is interesting, especially as it relates to the real-life situation of Swine Flu. It is a difficulty which would inevitably result if we found ourselves having to deal with a similar infection – is it worth severely panicking people? And might that have disastrous consequences? The film was praised among the scientific community for its accurate portrayal of medical practices, which I think is important as it adds to the realism of the circumstances – making the film more interesting.
I thought that the film, as a whole, lacked the emotional repercussions that such a wide-spread disease would cause. ‘Contagion’ was focused on the medical experts and the issues of vaccines, food distribution, civil unrest, coping with large numbers of dead bodies and where to keep the sick. While of course being important matters to consider, this meant that no spotlight was cast on the millions of people affected, in terms of death. In this sort of film I think that it is necessary to consider the impact of an epidemic such as this on ordinary people. Another criticism I would have of the film is, that it was very much a copy of other disease - leading to the end of humanity – films. The ‘edge of the seat’ effect is lost when it’s clear what is going to happen – people becoming crazed and destroying shop windows, for example. It’s difficult to be really affected by a film which seems to be similar to many other films of this type.
Despite these criticisms, the film is still interesting and quite frightening at points. It demonstrates the power of an idea which terrifies people and I think presents an accurate picture of the action a government might take in this sort of situation. Overall, I enjoyed the film and the situation definitely grabbed me. However, I felt disappointed that it did not really offer anything different and lacked an emotions depth.