Contagion Equal Parts Traumatic and Titillating

Andrew Gombas, Staff Writer

Do not go see Contagion. Yes, it has an all-star cast that delivers, an illegal-download-worthy soundtrack, an excellent script, fluid editing and seemingly accurate science to back up the plot. However, it also has the capacity to turn you into the next Howard Hughes, hiding in a sterile hotel room covered in plastic and peeing into a jar for fear of contracting a deadly virus.

In all seriousness, this movie is genuinely terrifying. It is perfectly clear that the creators of this film went to great lengths to make it (at least appear) scientifically and socially accurate, and it pays off. Contagionfollows five characters, each of whom is deeply impacted by an extremely transmittable, extremely fatal disease that is quickly spreading across the globe. Minnesota father Mitch Emhoff (Matt Damon) watches his life slowly crumble as his loved ones are torn from him. Epidemiologist Leonora (Marion Cotillard) struggles to find the root of the disease in China while remaining unbiased. Dr. Ellis Cheever (Laurence Fishburne) attempts to calm a rapidly panicking public while racing to develop a cure. Jude Law slimes out as semi-Messianic blogger Alan Krumwielde, who stands to make a profit as the world burns. On the front lines is Dr. Erin Mears (Kate Winslet), who is trying to isolate all of those infected before the disease gets out of hand. SPOILER ALERT: It does.

Those of you who are impressed by the cast list thus far have no idea what’s in store. Prepare to geek out for cameos from Breaking Bad’s Bryan Cranston, comedian Demetri Martin and a scene-stealing Gwyneth Paltrow, all of whom move decidedly out of their comfort zones in this film. The acting is predictably good throughout, but Damon gets extra kudos for not overdramatizing what could have become a horrendously melodramatic role. One scene in particular stands out, in which Mitch is informed about the condition of a sick loved one — it shows just how far Damon has come from his breakout role in Good Will Hunting.

Cliff Martinez’s soundtrack is so distinct it almost acts as a character, churning out a wail of steadily intensifying electronica that sounds like Trent Reznor and Daft Punk’s Oscar-hungry lovechild.

The truly admirable quality of this movie is its ability to find horror in the mundane. The audience is assaulted with facts about how easy it is to contract this or that, how often some people touch their faces after touching feces, etc. If you don’t wash your hands the second you walk out of the theater, this movie hasn’t done its job. The big-money shots in this horror flick aren’t of zombies chasing down a screaming child, but rather of a sweaty man coughing up phlegm in a crowded marketplace and bodies in garbage bags being tossed into mass graves.

All right, fine. See the movie. See if I care. You will have front-row seats to two hours of seizures, weeping loved ones, mass graves and a surprisingly ugly Jude Law. But when I find you huddled in your dorm room inhaling hand sanitizer and weeping because of your own humbling mortality, I will look down at you with the pitiless eyes of one who warned you not to fly so close to the sun.