When "Contagion" ran in theaters, the film intrigued me, conjuring up memories of "Outbreak," an epidemic movie about the outbreak of a previously undiscovered virus. Yet, "Contagion" seemed to have a different feel to it and I was eager to check out the film when Warner home Video dropped the Blu-Ray version on my desk.
The movie's narrative intertwines different plot strands, each centering around a key character. Each of these characters is part of a unique story that adds up to the scenario and development of the story as a whole. Among those characters are people who are infected by a deadly virus and inevitably die. Others are people who lost loved ones to the virus. Another character believes in a medical conspiracy and does everything in his power to spread the word and find a real cure to prove the point that the pharma industry is sitting on its hands. And then, there are those who are trying to help. Doctors, nurses, health care officials and researchers, all trying to put an end to the pandemic that sweeps the entire world.
I don't want to give away too much of the story and instead will allow you to enjoy the movie's breadth on your own. I will say, however, that "Contagion" is a very scary film. Scary, not in the sense of overtly horrific, but instead on a psychological level. To witness this epidemic unfold at the speed of light, almost, and share the helplessness that accompanies the disease is a truly frightening prospect. Regardless of culture, of societal standings, of wealth or beliefs, the virus wipes out everyone in its path, making you think twice the next time you see someone sneezing close to you.
Featuring an all-star cast that boasts Matt Damon, Kate Winslet, Jude Law, Laurence Fishburne, Gwyneth Paltrow and many others, the film is truly a sobering experience. While the story of a pandemic and the way it unfolds is in itself not very new, and the film does not go into new territory story-wise in any way, the movie that director Steven Soderbergh has brought to life here, it is edgy at times, and always maintains an amount of realism that will make you feel uncomfortable and rattles your nerves.
The 1080p high definition transfer of the movie on this Blu-Ray Disc is pristine, to say the least. It is absolutely clean and free of any blemishes, and with its incredibly high level of detail, it is a pleasure to watch. Black levels are rock solid and the color reproduction throughout this movie is natural with bold accents.
The same is true for the audio presentation, which is featured here as a DTS 5. HD Master Audio track. With aggressive surrounds at times, the audio is modern and balanced, offering a low bass extension with clean high ends that are never distorted. The film's score is wonderfully integrated, making use of the stereo field as well as the surround channels at its discretion to enhance the over experience noticeably.
"Contagion" arrives with a number of bonus materials, such as the featurette "The Reality of Contagion," in which filmmakers and cast members discuss the real science of global viruses and their risks. The question arises, naturally, what can we do to protect ourselves from such pandemics, but self-evidently, a cast of actors may not be the right expert panel for the subject matter, educated as they may be.
"The Contagion Detectives" is a look at the preparations for the film, discussing how experts in the medical field have helped the various cast members to get into character.
Also included is the featurette "Contagion: How a Virus Changed the World."
The release is rounded out by the DVD version and an UltraViolet Digital Copy of the movie. Since UltraViolet is still a completely broken system - I have yet to find out how do download an actual copy of a movie to any of my devices - and so unwieldy that it is nothing but a painful time sink, I am not sure there is any value in its addition at this point in time. Warner and all the other studies should have stuck with their Digital Copy process they way they had it in place before. It was broken, too, with its harsh time limitations, but at least it was actually possible to see the movie and not only the promise of it.
"Contagion" is a gripping film, and a frightening one at that. While the story itself offers little surprises and rehashes many things we've seen in similar films before, its presentation is slick and unsettling, making for a great movie viewing experience.