"Contagion" was one of those movies that tried to follow the format of "Crash" and "Traffic" by having single word titles and casting a whole lot of famous people. But in case you were wondering, having more recognizable actors in a movie doesn't make that movie better. Not by a long shot.
In 2011, Matt Damon, Kate Winslet, Gwyneth Paltrow, Marion Cotillard, Laurence Fishburne, and Jude Law, all got together and decided to star in "Contagion," which is basically "Outbreak" only without plot structure, excitement, or sympathetic characters. The movie tracks the spread of an unknown virus that proceeds to smite the populations of all the important cities in the world like New York, Tokyo, and Paris. (Honestly, when it comes to apocalyptic fiction, New York City draws the short straw every single time.)
For a good thirty minutes or so, people just die. There's confusion and slowly growing hysteria, which is a great characteristic of a disaster film. But "Contagion" never seems to get past that. Scenes are chronological but disjointed with little or no reason for one to follow another. The characters move around as though they haven't read the entire script and are just waiting for Steven Soderbergh to tell them what to do next. By the time anyone "important" - and by that, we mean characters who have gotten at least five consecutive minutes of screen time - encounters any real danger, it's really hard to care. In fact, you get to a point where even the vaccine - the movie's very own MacGuffin and purpose for being - matters less than the weird thing they did with Jude Law's front tooth.
The movie could have been fixed. Seriously, just get rid of half the cast and take the time previously devoted to introducing them and use it to, you know, tell a story. Some of the most emotional stories ever have only focused on just a few characters. "Contagion" tries to answer some basic questions about the virus, where it came from, how it spreads, and what people are trying to do to cure it. And it even tries to introduce some very real and fascinating issues that a deteriorating society might face in such a circumstance, like looting and violence and greed and desperation. "Contagion" just doesn't do any of those things well enough. Answers are inconsistent or just don't make any sense, and pretty much every scene thing lacks even a semblance of emotion.
The last two minutes before the credits are literally the most interesting part of the whole movie. That and Jude Law's tooth. Ew.