An Eerie Prophecy

It can be a little freaky when life imitates art. It isn’t supposed to be that way.

Everything you need to know about COVID-19 can be found in the 2011 film Contagion. Somehow I missed it nine years ago, despite an all-star ensemble cast. I guess I’m just not much of a moviegoer.

Contagion tells the story of a worldwide pandemic. If they were to change the name of the virus, you would swear it was a documentary from 2020.

It’s all here: social distancing, face masks, a virus that somehow moves from animals to humans, a desperate search for a vaccine, fear and death. This virus even originates in China.

I’m a little surprised public health authorities didn’t urge the public to watch this film back in March, when COVID-19 protocols were first coming into effect. As a teaching film it would have been very effective.

Not only would people have immediately understood what steps they could take to minimize their risk of contacting COVID-19, but they would also have been given a better understanding as to how the system works. Both the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control are featured prominently.

As an educational tool for these times, Contagion is excellent. As a film, it is not quite as good. In this case I found that too many stars spoiled this broth.

With a bunch of Hollywood elite actors (including Matt Damon, Kate Winslet, Jude Law and Gwyneth Paltrow) some of the characters seemed to get lost. Telling a complex tale in under two hours can be difficult, but sometimes the jumps from one character and focus to another were disconcerting. Maybe a more linear approach to the story would have been more effective.

I must admit that with the various sub-plots and story-lines I forgot about the character who had been kidnapped until she re-appeared. Not a good sign that I hadn’t been concerned about her fate. (That whole episode seemed a little problematical to me.)

Given what is going on in the world today, I hesitate to describe Contagion as entertainment. Many of us are looking to escape from reality when we watch a movie, not be reminded of our daily lives.

Still, I was impressed with the accuracy of the portrayal. In 2020 we know how the world handles a pandemic. When this film was made that was really only conjecture, we really hadn’t experienced anything like we have gone through this year.

I’m glad I watched Contagion. Hollywood provides happy endings, even in movies where people die. And we all want a happy ending to this pandemic. This film may give you a bit of hope.



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