It was years ago, quite likely in 1990, at the International Film Festival of India in Kolkata that I saw Steven Soderbergh’s debut feature, Sex, Lies and Videotape. He wrote that in eight days, and the movie premiered at the 1989 Cannes Film Festival and won the top Golden Palm there. At 26, he was the youngest director to win that.
Soderbergh went on to make many more interesting movies like Erin Brokovich. Traffic, Full Frontal, The Good German, The Informant and the Ocean’s series.
Like many of his movies, Contagion is dramatic in its subject. It plots an outbreak of a deadly virus in today’s times, something similar to the 1918 Spanish flu that reportedly killed closer to 100 million people in about two years.
Through an impressive bevy of stars, the film narrates how Gwyneth Paltrow, a high flying businesswoman, picks the bug in Hong Kong and spreads it all along her journey back home to the U.S. Her husband, Matt Damon, is immune though, but half his family perishes. With Jude Law as a journalist, Kate Winslet as a WHO doctor (sent to Hong Kong to try and trace the origin of the infection) and Marion Cotillard and, Laurence Fishburne in various other roles, Contagion is racy and is likely to whip up nervousness. The next time you hear someone sneeze or cough, run away and make sure you wash your hands is what the feature presumably conveys.
Unfortunately, there are too many characters and they have too little screen time for audiences to really care whether they live or die. Soderbergh fails to bind us emotionally to the scare and suffering of his men and women on the screen. This emotional disconnect appears to be the biggest flaw in a movie that tops in performance.
We in India maybe be somewhat more immune to such fast-spreading viruses, living as we do in the midst of such pollution and filth that make us hardier than others. Also, some spices that often go into Indian cooking like garlic and ginger are proven to be highly effective in preventing infection.
Maybe the next time you see someone with a cold or find one coming on in you, a few garlic pods may just about do the trick.