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This is a cool-hearted, slickly designed, constrained thriller that oozes peril while never spelling it out. Nobody runs around frantically, nobody chases an alpha monkey, nobody has any chance of reaching a breaking moment of curing the disease that breaks out and threatens to kill a considerable share of the world’s population. Hence no real showdown, no just-in-time delivery of the saving antibodies or serum or whatever it is these films usually deliver three seconds before viral apocalypse. Instead, people are doing their jobs, developing vaccines, trying them out, developing distribution plans, keeping people from killing each other, analyzing what happened and whether anybody is guilty, blaming it on the government, cheating their way into slightly better immunization than they are eligible. It is a perfectly plausible scenario, and more frightening than the gospel according to “Breakout”. With an odd combination of mostly really good, often really strange actors (Lawrence Fishburne, Jude Law…) , with real families attached to the key researchers in particular, with fear balancing determination to get that thing fixed, “Contagion”creates an atmosphere of high tension, and keeps it up without shouting at the audience. An arthouse disaster movie that has more in common with Michael Winterbottom’s science fiction ventures than with the genre of virus outbreak action thrillers, it is to me one of Soderbergh’s best movies of the decade.  Excellent writing, too, e.g. upon stumbling across the virus lab talk: “Should I call someone?” – “Call everyone!” or somebody scoffing at Jude Law, the conspiracy theory blogger: “Blogging is not writing, it’s graffiti with punctuation”. Well spoken!

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