“Contagion” is a 2011 American disaster thriller film that depicts a panic caused by a global pandemic of an unknown deadly virus infection, and the struggles of the people working in medical health organizations, as an ensemble drama by making use of the multi-narrative “hyperlink cinema” style.
Directed by Steven Soderbergh. 106 minutes.
American marketing executive Beth Emhoff (Gwyneth Paltrow) meets with her ex-boyfriend in Chicago on her way home from a Hong Kong business trip. Two days later, she suffers a seizure in her home in suburban Minneapolis. Her husband Mitch (Matt Damon) rushes her to the hospital. She dies from a previously unknown virus. Returning home, Mitch finds that his stepson, Clark, has also died. Mitch is isolated but found to be naturally immune. After being released, he isolates his teenage daughter, Jory, at home.
At the same time, a young man in Hong Kong, a model in London, and a businessman in Tokyo die, being infected by the novel virus. The virus rapidly spreads worldwide.
In Atlanta, Dr. Ellis Cheever (Laurence Fishburne) of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) dispatches Dr. Erin Mears (Kate Winslet), an Epidemic Intelligence Service officer, to Minneapolis. Mears tries to determine the source of the virus outbreak, but she herself is infected by the virus and dies.
As the novel virus spreads, several cities, such as Chicago and Minneapolis, are placed under lockdown, and it causes panic buying, looting, and violence.
At the CDC, Dr. Ally Hextall (Jennifer Ehle) determines the novel virus “MEV-1” is a combination of genetic material from pig and bat-borne viruses. Though scientists face difficulty cultivating the virus, which is necessary for the vaccine development, University of California researcher Dr. Ian Sussman finds a usable culture medium.
Conspiracy theorist Alan Krumwiede (Jude Law) blogs about the virus, and he spreads a false rumor that the infection can be cured by a homeopathic treatment using forsythia. Krumwiede is arrested for conspiracy and securities fraud, but he is released on bail because his sympathizers post bail.
Hextall succeeds in developing a vaccine. The CDC starts vaccinating the people in order of birth date determined by a random lottery.
In Hong Kong, World Health Organization (WHO) epidemiologist Dr. Leonora Orantes (Marion Cotillard) and public health officials discover that Beth is the index case who contracted the virus in a Macau casino. Government official Sun Feng kidnaps Orantes as a hostage to obtain MEV-1 vaccines for his home village.
“Contagion” is a disaster thriller film that realistically depicts what happens in the case of a global pandemic outbreak of a deadly virus, being based on scientific research, like a thought experiment or simulation.
It was inspired by events that actually happened, such as the 2002–2004 SARS outbreak and the 2009 swine flu pandemic. The pandemic depicted in the film bears some resemblance to the COVID-19 pandemic that started in 2019. So, it can also be seen as a forward-looking film that predicted the social situation after the COVID-19 pandemic.