Take caution when watching Contagion amid pandemic

Natasha Lynch

The 2011 film has become extremely popular since the Coronavirus outbreak, climbing back up the iTunes charts this month to reach one of the top ten positions. 

Matt Damon, Jude Law and Marion Cotillard star in the medical thriller, which was praised by scientists for showing an accurate depiction of a pandemic.

It follows how the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), health care professionals and regular people react to a deadly fictional virus called Mev-1. Millions of fatalities occur across the world before a vaccine is developed and fairly distributed to the public through a lottery system.

Director of the film Steven Soderberg and writer Scott Burns consulted various health experts for scientific facts and information. Looking back now, the film seems to act as a forewarning as to what could happen and for world leaders to be ready when it does.

Gwyneth Paltrow and Kate Winslet also feature in the film, as the director uses multi-narrative “hyperlink cinema” style we see how both characters contract the virus and play vital roles.

Winslet’s character ‘Dr. Erin Mears’ tries to find a solution for the vaccine and stresses the alarming pace in which the virus spreads through human contact. One particular line in the film is extremely crucial and memorable:

“The average person touches their face 2,000 or 3,000 times a day. That’s three to five times every waking minute,” Mears says. “In between, we’re touching doorknobs, water fountains, elevator buttons, and each other.”

We see the domino effect of the virus sweeping across the world, although it is mostly through the perspective of America, there is an overwhelming sense of unity and desperateness for the vaccine.

Jude Law’s character presents as a conspiracy-theorist who pretends he has the virus and spreads rumours about a false cure. This is similar to the constant misinformation flooding social media, adding to the panic and distrust within society.

The actions taken by the public in “Contagion” are currently reflecting our reality such as social distancing and stockpiling on goods. When it premiered nine years ago it was merely an unnerving film but now it seems to be guide for surviving a pandemic.

However, it doesn’t provide much reassurance as you can predict, it does not end well for the majority of the characters. Although it alleviates some anxiety in watching a solution being developed towards the end, it does not make the rest of the film any less distressing under the current circumstances.

Certainly, it is a gripping drama with a serious thought-provoking theme. The variety of character perspectives shown add to the realness and intensity of the storyline.

Various films revolving around a pandemic including “World War Z”, “28 Weeks Later” and “I am Legend” are also climbing up the charts again.

It appears that society finds comfort in watching films which mirror the current alarming reality, even though it may fuel our fears.

Natasha Lynch 

Image Credit: Warner Brothers