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Movie Review: Contagion

Alternate Title: A Pox on Your House (and Mine)

Story: Hang onto your hat and grab the arm of your theater seat (no wait - don't touch anything) because this latest, smart, fast moving thriller is solid entertainment. The disease is the star of the film and that's why it is easy for directorSteven Soderbbergh and writer Scott Z Burns to have Oscar winning actors drop like flies throughout the film.

The premise is straightforward and grim. A lethal pandemic quickly spreads as the medical community races to find a vaccine and people struggle to survive. Deftly cutting from story to story (brilliantly edited by Stephen Mirrione) we watch helplessly as the social order begins to collapse leading to riots, food shortages and the basest of human instincts. Not a pretty picture, you might say. It is fascinating to watch the various stereotypes perform when push comes to shove.

Good is represented by the hard working scientists and doctors who are struggling to identify the new disease and develop a vaccine. Evil is represented by a blogger who has no problem coming up with a conspiracy theory that millions believe to be true and people who are trying to profit from this nightmare. My favorite line is when a doctor, frustrated by this obnoxious blogger says "Blogging isn't writing - it is graffiti with exclamation marks."

The film is infused with urgency and manages to also raise interesting questions dealing with economic, social, ethical and political problems.

Take in this end of summer film and remember to wash your hands, just like your mother always told you to do.

Watch the trailer here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4sYSyuuLk5g

Acting: Marion Cotillard as WHO Dr. Leonora Orantes is fine. Matt Damon as husband of the first victim, Mitch Emhoff is always earnest and quite good. Laurence Fishburne as Dr. Ellis Cheever is believable.Jude Law as blogger Alan Krumwiede is delightfully smarmy. Gwyneth Paltrow as first victim, Beth Emhoff dies very well. Kate Winslet as the good Dr. Erin Mears is always good. Jennifer Ehle as Dr. Ally Hextall should be making more films. She is wonderful. Elliott Gould as Dr. Ian Sussman always seems as if he is going to break out in song or tell a joke.

Predilection: I like films by Steven Soderbergh.

Trivia: Steven Soderbergh became the first director in 62 years to have twin Best Director Oscar nominations for Erin Brockovich (2000) and Traffic (2000). The last director to do that was Michael Curtiz with twin nominations for Angels with Dirty Faces (1938) and Four Daughters (1938). Soderbergh topped Curtiz by going on to win the Oscar for Traffic (2000). He became the youngest winner ever of the Palme d'Or at the 1989 Cannes Film Festival for Sex, Lies, and Videotape (1989), his feature film directorial debut. He was 26. He is the only director to have had two films (Traffic (2000) and Erin Brockovich (2000)) receive Best Director nominations in the same year for the Academy Awards, the Golden Globes, and the Directors' Guild of America.

Critters: Bats, pigs, Rhesus Monkeys.

Food: Peanuts at a bar

Blatant Product Placement: There were lots of products shown as rioters were grabbing food items out of super markets.

Soundtrack: A fast paced track by Cliff Martinez.

Opening Titles: You hear a cough over a black screen and then you see the words Day 2. All titles are at the end.

Theater Audience: About 15 other people and I am happy to say that no one coughed during the entire film.

Weather: Not a factor.

Sappy Factor: 0

Quirky Meter: 0

Squirm Scale: Watching society collapse is not a pretty picture.

Drift Factor: I paid attention throughout.

Predictability Level: Pretty high.

Tissue Usage: 0

Oscar Worthy: Probably not.

Big Screen or Rental: Big screen for sure.

Length: Under two hours.