A hacking, phlegmy cough is the first human sound you hear in this frightening film about a new killer virus. Unfortunately, an identical cough echoed through the theater where the Movie Slut was watching this biological thriller. Maybe that's why she couldn't keep all the characters straight.
"Contagion," with its cast of too many, is an ambitious film. It sets out to uncover every aspect of this global crisis. We see members of the medical establishment working valiantly to understand exactly what they're fighting, then racing feverishly (sometimes literally) to create a vaccine that will end the pandemic.
We see politicians scrambling to contain the growing panic, some selfless, others self-serving. And since this is a modern-day take on an old plot, we also have a blogger. Is he a journalist speaking truth to power? Or a paranoid lunatic? Or a crass opportunist? The MS won't tell.
And then we have our ordinary Joe and Jane, who are just trying to stay alive till the end of the film. Played here by Matt Damon and Anna Jacoby-Heron, as his daughter.
Yes, a lot is going on and a lot of it is excellent. But as the movie zooms across continents to cover every possible eventuality, it seems to lose the human touch. In the end, the MS didn't care enough about any of these characters. Or maybe it was just the relentless coughing.
PS. "Contagion" begins on Day 2 of the pandemic and returns to Day 1 at the end. That's when we learn how it all started.
PPS. The amazing cast includes Marion Cotillard, Matt Damon, Laurence Fishburne, Jude Law, Gwyneth Paltrow, Kate Winslet, Bryan Cranston, Kate Winslet, Elliott Gould, Jennifer Ehle, and Dr. Sanjay Gupta (CNN) playing himself.
And what would the movie be without Josuha Pollock, who plays coughing man. The one in the movie. Not the one in the theater.