So after running around Aldgate East for a good half an hour in all possible directions trying to find this Turkish restaurant I was supposed to be having dinner at, having dinner (did I wash my hands?..), then running around a little bit more around Stepney Green and locating the cinema, I finally settled down to watch Contagion – in the nick of time and on the tiniest screen ever to be installed in a cinema.
Truth be told, I was curious about the film, but wasn’t expecting anything remotely above predictable. The sole reason I agreed to go is because of the star-studded cast: I seriously struggled to imagine that Matt Damon, Laurence Fishburne, Gwyneth Paltrow, Jude Law, and Kate Winslet would collectively decide to star in a typical disaster drama in the style of computer game-generated Resident Evil. Individually – maybe, although unlikely, but definitely not collectively. Although I guess it would have been quite fun to see Jude Law dressed up as a zombie and Matt Damon as a vampire (possibly -slayer; Catherine Hardwicke pay heed, I’m practically giving it away for when the Twilight saga is finally extinguished!).
Someone, of course, had to let out a cough when the lights went out – ha-ha. But what ensued after was so much above and beyond adolescent giggles and cynical smirks (mine was at the ready) that not only did I leave with a sense of thorough satisfaction, but also a profound respect for the makers of this film. For to do something so uncommercial, realistic, anti-hysterical, and generally scientifically accurate takes some guts. It almost felt like a mix between a documentary and an educational feature. I loved this film from beginning to the end. Just imagine what a mass epidemic of a virus with a very high mortality rate (aren’t you immensely grateful that it’s not outright lethal? I sure was) entails, what aspects of the very fabric of society it penetrates.
Guess the film takes on more of a political/socio-economic angle instead of giving a first-hand, personal account of the events– to elaborate on both in equal measures simply would have been impractical and part of me wishes that the personal had not been dwelled upon at all. But still, it was done in a demure, matter-of-fact way, which did nothing to detract from the political aspect. Don’t get me wrong – this is no political thriller and you’ll be left acutely disappointed if you’re after a healthy dose of conspiracy theories. The film is plain and simple (and did I mention, very real?) and this is what I liked about it so much.
Then there is, of course, the music. Slightly digital, slightly pulsating – perfectly evocative of the spread of the virus through the world and through the veins.
Frankly, in my opinion, the whole affair is more or less perfect – no cliff-hangers, no heart-breakers, no big evil pharma companies, no nonsense, but pure fact and science; well, and a little bit of profiteering, looting, kidnapping, and scape-goating thrown in for good measure.
However, I do wonder if the film is set to have any success with anyone without a science background. For once, I wasn’t smiling sardonically and patronising my gullible unsciencey friends. On the contrary, on this occasion, I’ve had to work very hard to kindle any sort of enthusiasm in them, so inconsolable they were at the lack of apocalyptic images and distorted human bodies mutating into undead things – the only mutation in this film was that of the virus and even that was pondered as “good or bad?”.
P. S. The only thing I’m not too pleased about in this film (hence my “more or less perfect” comment) is that they showed a 3D-simulated protein-protein complex in ChemSketch and passed it off as a virus-host aggregate, with the virus in this case being infinitely larger than the host cell. But then again, I might have misunderstood and they could have been referring to the viral antigen binding to the receptor on the surface of the host cell, which would have made a lot more sense.
P. P. S. Don’t forget to wash your hands before every meal!