• James Hewlett

Contagion (2011)

Last night I watched the movie Contagion from nearly ten years ago. It’s a Steven Soderbergh film, a director I like a lot and one I’ve been meaning to watch for a long time. I had it on my computer for a few years and would scan past it frequently but it got lost along the way at some point and for the longest time it wasn’t available on any of the streaming platforms here on the UK.

Recently it re-emerged in the public consciousness and became the most pirated movie in the world, after which it was quickly snapped up by Netflix as they saw the benefit of having it available to people.

Boy, oh boy. That is a movie that I feel like has a lot more resonance now than it did in 2011. It is a work of fiction, but it doesn’t need much tweaking at all for it to be about COVID-19.

The most major differences between the fiction of the movie and real life are the speed at which the virus kills, it was traced back to Hong Kong as opposed to Wuhan and the fact that it seems as though America has a competent president, though he’s not a character in the film just referenced a few times.

The movie itself is an ensemble, following CDC doctors and workers, WHO and government officials, reporters and members of the public and how they are each all dealing with and connected to the virus.

The level of detail used throughout the film is what staggered me the most; I think it can only be appreciated now that we all have a much higher understanding of these things from living through a current pandemic the research the writers and film makers all put into this script. There is terminology used that we all have readily available in our own vernacular now that we weren’t using four months ago, but it is presented in the film proving that the steps and precautions being implemented now haven’t been pulled out of someones ass just recently, these are practices that have been modelled and workshopped for years in the event of an outbreak like this, so much so that the writer of a Hollywood movie can research it.

As I said, the timeline of the movie is escalated, they’re at about the stage we currently are by about twenty one days in, so some of the later scenes of the film still play out as conjecture. But it’s a scary conjecture based on how spot on everything else has been! Right down to the loud idiots with large audiences feeding disgracefully poor information into the public and causing a lot of extra infection, spread and death in the process.

The film ends with a vaccine developed and distribution starting, though they acknowledge it will take a long time. I hope that that process can be at least on the horizon for us soon too, though I fear we’re still a long ways off yet.

Don’t watch this movie if you have any fears or anxieties about our current situation, but if like me you can take in a work of fiction with a dope score, sit back and go, “wow, they hit a close to the mark on that one!” The. Definitely check it out.


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