Contagion — Review

I’d been wanting to see this movie since it was first announced and finally got the chance over the weekend. It did not disappoint.

The film follows a large number of various characters as the story develops over many weeks concerning a worldwide pandemic, from the first inklings all the way through the development of a vaccine. While the movie primarily focuses on the efforts of various agencies such as the CDC, there are a couple of story lines that illustrate the viewpoint of the private citizen.

Matt Damon plays Mitch Emhoff, who is married to Beth, played by Gwyneth Paltrow. She has been in Hong Kong on business and arrives back home with what she believes is a mild cold. Soon though, the illness worsens significantly and Mitch takes her to the hospital. It doesn’t take long before she dies from the illness. Mitch comes home to find his young stepson, Clark, has also died from the same disease. Mitch is found to be immune after a lengthy forced isolation. He attempts to flee Minnesota with his daughter but they are turned back at the Wisconsin border.

As all of this is playing out, Dr. Ellis Cheever (Laurence Fishburne) and his staff at the Center for Disease Control are working feverishly to determine the source of the illness that is beginning to spread outward from several cities. He sends Dr. Erin Mears (Kate Winslet) to Minneapolis to investigate “Ground Zero,” interviewing Mitch and several other people connected to Beth. She manages to back trace her movements to Hong Kong, where the same disease has taken root.

At several points in the story, the efforts by the CDC and others to educate the public about the disease are hampered by a particular blogger named Alan Krumwiede (Jude Law). He believes there is one or more conspiracies involved, especially as to the development of a vaccine. At almost every turn, he is telling the public to not believe what they’re being told.

The disease rages across the world, infecting one in every twelve people and killing one out of every four infected. Food supplies become scarce, though interestingly the power stays on everywhere? There are mass riots over food and medicine. Many people isolate themselves from anyone else, fearing infection.

While the movie doesn’t end quite as dark as perhaps it could have, it does well with illustrating what I feel is a fairly “true-to-life” depiction of how society would degrade during a pandemic. I became particularly interested in the Alan Krumwiede character. He seemed to be a pastiche of many, many conspiracy theorists active online today. The idea that thousands and thousands of people could be duped into believing anything they read online is, of course, very real and we see it every day.

All in all, I really liked this movie. I found it very thought provoking. If you have family or friends who are sort of “on the fence” about prepping, ask them to watch this movie and see if it helps sway them.

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Jim Cobb

Jim Cobb has been a student of survivalism and emergency preparedness for almost thirty years. As a young child, he drove his parents nuts with stockpiling supplies in the basement every time he heard there was a tornado watch in his area. Of course, being a child, those supplies consisted of his teddy bear, a few blankets and pillows, and random canned goods he grabbed from the kitchen cabinets. Later, he was the first (and likely only) child in his fifth grade class to have bought his very own copy of Life After Doomsday by Bruce Clayton. Today, he is a freelance writer whose work has been published in national magazines such as Boy’s Life and Complete Survivalist Magazine. He is a voracious reader with a keen interest in all stories with post-apocalyptic settings. He maintains the Library at the End of the World blog and is also the Content Director for He currently resides in a fortified bunker in the upper Midwest, accompanied by his lovely wife and their three adolescent Weapons of Mass Destruction. Jim's first book, Prepper's Home Defense, was published late 2012 and his second book, tentatively titled The Prepper's Complete Guide to Disaster Readiness, will be out in mid-2013, both coming from Ulysses Press.

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