I guess when you’re Steven Soderbergh, you’ve got your pick of A-listers prepared to do bit parts in your films. And I guess you also get to pretty much choose where you’re going to shoot. And I guess, therefore, when you’re Steven Soderbergh, and a script like Contagion lands in front of you, you get to bring together your game team of cast and locations in perfect harmony.
Well, yes, that’s true enough, in principle. And it’s also true that – unlike some unfocussed, heart-stringy Roland Emmerich block buster – Soderbergh takes the high road with the story line. He treats it dead seriously that a working Mom returns from a business trip to China trailing a disease in her wake that’s both airborne and transmitted by touch. The ensuing pandemic ultimately takes out several million people whilst Scientists struggle try to isolate a cure and the woman’s surviving husband attempts to fend for his surviving child.
So I found the sociological parts of the story really fascinating – yes, even the close ups that remind us ickily of the gazillion objects we carelessly touch each day. But in spite of the excellent cast and the glorious range of places he puts them (Illinois did stand in for Minnesota), it just fails to connect on any visceral level. Perhaps that’s apt: in a movie where human contact can be fatal we are held at a very safe distance from the characters. So: Contagion? Good, but not, sadly, great.