I DON’T DO FILM REVIEWS, but I did see “Contagion” last night and I think it is worthy of comment. Just one word of caution: don’t take the kiddies. There’s absolutely no sex and no shoot-’em’-ups, but there is a scene where a youngster watches his mother suffering from a fatal seizure, and kids do relate.
After seeing the trailers a couple of weeks ago — which included the seizure scene — we moved “Contagion” lower on our must-see list to our maybe-see list. Last night, however, with Kris on her way to Germany, bad boy me decided to give it a go. It was definitely worth the trip.
Briefly — and you can read this much in the reviews — a woman contracts a deadly and unknown disease in Hong Kong, and through contacts passes the disease on to others, beginning an epidemic which spreads to world-wide proportions. The story surrounds efforts to control and eradicate the disease, and amazingly enough, the real heroes are workers at governmental agencies, such as the CDC. The guy in the street portion of the story is portrayed by Matt Damon.
The film, as a thriller, is involving, but what strikes you is the potential of such a pandemic actually occurring and what the human response would be, especially if “the real one” moved with the breath-taking speed of the fictional version.
Early in the film, one of the characters raises the suspicion that the disease might have been a deliberate action by a terrorist group, given that “well, they do strap explosives to their bodies and blow themselves up in public places.” The notion is not pursued, but in the real world that kind of consideration would likely be feared, given that, well, Islamists now get that kind of press for almost any action that is deemed less than charitable.
One more thing to worry about — if you choose to do so.
But then again, the intent of the film is not really to generate global hand-wringing, but rather to dramatize what can be done in the hands of dedicated professionals, which is why it’s worth the viewing. Regardless of your preferences for governmental spending — if you support any at all — keep what dollars there are moving to the Center for Disease Control in Atlanta and the World Health Organization. Both are essential to good health around the world.
We find ourselves these days with an unreasonable, and I guess I could say, unhealthy regard for so many institutions that were once, if not always revered, at least respected and relied upon to function for the common good. There was a sense that they were on our side. And more, if you’ve kept an eye on these things over the years, you know that the opposing dogmas, for example, of both political parties haven’t changed all that much for decades. Republicans continue to view Democrats as 21st Century New Dealers, and Democrats don’t see much difference in the right-wing minions from one-time Hooverites.
But now the vitriol is at flood-stage and getting worse. One side not only works for the demise of the other, it takes obvious pleasure in the failure of its opponents.
You know all of this, and you wait hopefully for it to subside. You yearn for the day when people of differing views can find common ground and push together for the common good. What we used to call the American Way. Which is why people who see “Contagion” leave the theater feeling good. Because they’ve seen a story of the good guys working hard and long for that common good. And surprise, surprise, they demonstrate, if only in make-believe, that it can work.