Complete A-Z list



Stars: Matt Damon, Gwyneth Paltrow, Marion Cotillard, Kate Winslet, Jude Law, Bryan Cranston, Laurence Fishburne, Sanaa Lathan

Director: Steven Soderbergh

Steven Soderbergh’s gripping disaster thriller wastes no time getting off the ground and under your skin. No credits. No “A film by…” despite the fact that Soderbergh has reason to claim to be an auteur since he is his own cinematographer (as Peter Andrews) and editor (as Mary Ann Bernard).

Once again Mankind is under threat but not from some Godzilla-style monster or extraterrestrial invader. Here the killer, which by the time the movie ends has taken millions of lives worldwide, is a lethal airborne virus whose sufferers start with a cough and end up having brain seizures that end their lives. First to go – Soderbergh uses his stars ruthlessly whenever he has to - is Paltrow, who returns to Minneapolis from Hong Kong and dies horribly, leaving husband Damon and their young son grieving.

The virus rapidly goes international, causing world-wide panic and riots while blogger Law (who apparently is meant to be an Australian, Julia Assange-style but sounds as though he is auditioning for a Tommy Steele biopic) stirs things up in the media, even as while CSI escapee Fishburne at the US Centre for Disease Control and Prevention and assorted medicos (Winslet in the States, Cotillard in Geneva with WHO) fight against time to find a cure…

Soderbergh takes Burns’ muscular script at a great pace, using world-wide locations to good effect, and ensuring there are no longueurs. Contagion emerges as a tense and all-too-credible chiller that will have you panicking when someone sneezes in the cinema, instead just telling them to shut up.

Alan Frank

USA 2011. UK Distributor: Warner Bros.. Technicolor.
106 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 12A.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 2, Drugs 0, Swearing 1.

Review date: 20 Oct 2011