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Contagion: a good thriller that will have you reaching for the Purell

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Contagion, directed by Steven Soderbergh is a high-impact, fascinating and enjoyable thriller, chock full of award-winning actors and cautionary tales. The film is all the more chilling because the science beneath the story is valid and viable and (mostly) understandable. The bottom line: Our world is truly vulnerable to nasty, resilient, and currently unknown, viruses that can spread quickly due to our global lifestyles. Not a film for germo-phobes (and yes I am talking about you, Howie Mandel!) By the end of the film, many viewers will be making plans to stock up on hand sanitizer.

Gwyneth Paltrow gives a riveting, pivotal performance as Beth Emhoff, who returns from a business trip in Hong Kong and within 24 hours is deathly ill and twitching on her kitchen floor, as her husband, Mitch, played stoically by Matt Damon, looks on in horror.

Similar episodes begin to impact others across the globe, as an international group of scientists, CDC investigators and the WHO officials – such as Dr. Erin Mears, played by an earnest Kate Winslet, Dr. Ellis Cheever, embodied with authority by Laurence Fishburne and Dr. Leonara Orantes, who becomes a political pawn, played by French actor, Marion Cotillard– race to figure out the key mysteries: where the contagion began, and what will stop it.

Meanwhile major cities across the U.S. panic, and close their borders, leading to ugly scenes of looting, thievery, terror and desperation. Governments begin to make regrettable, militaristic decisions, and all types of ethical dilemma come into play. Enter Jude Law who gives a smarmy and smug performance as an influential web blogger who looks to expose the truth about the contagion, and then falls victim to its impact in a very different way.

Four out of five stars. Entertaining and informative, with just a bit of well-placed preachy-ness, Contagion will keep you on the edge of your seat one moment and then recoiling in horror the next. Rated PG-13 for disturbing content and some language, the film is best for teens and older. Younger children will be confused by the science and then disturbed by the violence, which is not extreme, but placed for optimal impact. See this film.

Contagion is playing locally at the Fairfield Cinemas at Bullard Square and the Bowtie Cinemas in Trumbull.

Other film reviews you may enjoy:

Cowboys & Aliens– weird, wonderful, interesting. Catch it at art houses now; should be out on DVD soon.

Super 8– a spectacular film with outstanding performances, J.J. Abrams and Spielberg to boot. Out on DVD soon

X-Men: First Class - best for fans of the series and of Jennifer Lawrence. Out on DVD right now – or rent it at Redbox.

Thor- A lot of action, and Natalie Portman, make this film tolerable, but just barely. Also now available on DVD.

Last Night– played in limited release in theatres this summer, this film stars Kiera Knightly and Sam Worthington. A great flick. And a good date movie. Look for it on DVD soon.

The King’s Speech- outstanding performances by Colin Firth, Geoffrey Rush and Helena Bonham-Carter make this unusual, but powerful film, well worth seeing. I predicted that it had a high probability to sweep the Oscars, with Firth a shoe-in for Best Actor. It was gratifying to see him win it.

The Black Swan- Natalie Portman won the Golden Globe and the Academy Award for Best Actress in her performance in this film and she deserved it. If you haven’t seen this film, yet, rent it now.

Winter’s Bone- an astonishing performance by Jennifer Lawrence, for which she has received an Academy award nomination. Lawrence is set to star in The Hunger Game films.

Tangled- great Disney flick, full of fun and action; good for the whole family. Available for rental at your local Connecticut Redbox.

The Infidel – a hilarious offering from last year’s Tribeca Film Festival, available now for rental or instant download on Netflix.

Win Win – Giamatti is wonderful in this film, now available on DVD.

Never Say Never – Justin Bieber, his rise to teen stardom and his dedicated fans. An interesting documentary and concert flick, fun and entertaining.

Love & Other Drugs- best for older teens and adults. Rated R for a reason. Anne Hathaway and Jake Gyllenhaal are naked for most of the film

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