I expected "Contagion" to be a gruesome horror story about a disease that ravages the earth's population. What I got was a thoughtful thriller about scientists racing to solve the mystery of a virus that seemingly appears out of nowhere and within days is killing people in Hong Kong, Chicago, and Minneapolis, before spreading in a few weeks to much of the rest of the world.
Director Steven Soderbergh can make great movies ("Out of Sight," "Erin Brockovich," "Traffic," "Ocean's Eleven" ) or he can miss the mark badly ("Solaris," "The Good German," "Ocean's Twelve"). With "Contagion," he's back to the bullseye. I'm not going to spoil any part of the plot, but the movie interweaves stories involving scientists at CDC and WHO (Lawrence Fishburne, Kate Winslet, Marion Cotillard, Elliott Gould, and Jennifer Ehle), regular folks affected by the virus and the accompanying global panic (Gwyneth Paltrow, Matt Damon, Sanaa Lathan), and a blogger who spreads conspiracy theories and misinformation (Jude Law). That's a pretty solid cast, and Soderbergh wrings every ounce out of them to make us feel the frustration, anger, and fear of people facing death from an enemy too small to see. In that, there are echoes of Michael Crichton's "The Andromeda Strain."
Although "Contagion" made about $75 million at the box office, I missed it on the big screen, and since you may have, too, I'm adding it to my Movies You Might Not Know list.