Wolfgang Petersen directs Dustin Hoffman, Rene Russo and Morgan Freeman in this ensemble thriller where an Ebola-like contagion enters the US and a maverick USAMRIID virologist attempts to track and contain the timeline of the virus.
The deadly monkey movie. I had read Richard Preston’s The Hot Zone the year before and this rival project (of a similar but fictional outbreak) got into production first thus negating a straight adaptation with Jodie Foster and Robert Redford at the time. The basic concept of a disease that liquifies your organs and evolves how it spreads is ripe with cinematic potential. I remember this being an armrest gripping blast back on release. Recent Warner Bros smash The Fugitive and Seventies disaster movies are definite influences in format and tone. However it does suffer from a baggy middle section that doesn’t quite lean into the mass hysteria of such a plague overwhelming a large township. And Hoffman, bless him, is out of his comfort zone as an army colonel. This is a solid man of action role which has Harrison Ford written all over the part. Beyond those niggles, there’s plenty of chases and gleefully unnecessary sprouts of scale. ‘When in doubt bang a helicopter in’ is the movie’s flamboyant creed. Donald Sutherland approaches his reckless general role with relish – a real boo hiss antagonist. And the prominent monkey stuff, the cutest carrier of death on legs, is handled with surprising class.
Perfect Double Bill: Contagion (2011)
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