I’ve received some (I think fair) complaints about spoilers in this post, so consider it a spoiler warning. I should note, and this will be true for reviews here on out, that I consider a “review” label to signal that here there (may) be spoilers. I assume you guys read these pieces as table-setters for discussion, and I post them on Friday when I do so they will be there over the weekend and available for discussion as folks see things.
Contagion Steven Soderbergh’s stylish and beautifully-acted ensemble horror movie has as its main villain a virus, but in a larger sense, it’s a perfect September 11 movie. Even as the characters scramble to address an untraceable global threat that transcends state borders and agency jurisdictions and marginal figures get rich spewing hate, the movie reaffirms a strong faith in human decency and innovation.
The movie’s villain is Jude Law at his creepy best as a conspiracy-oriented blogger who is anointed as a prophet when his paranoia hits pay dirt — he’s one of the first people outside of government to notice a pattern of illnesses that signals an epidemic. But he parlays that fame into huge profits by declaring forsythia a miracle cure, garnering a windfall for the pharmaceutical companies that manufacture it, and urging his readers not to take a vaccine when one becomes available. It’s a sickening portrait of vaccine denialism — a phenomenon that’s already causing spikes in childhood illnesses in the United States, and that could be catastrophic in a global pandemic. He’s also an illustration of the power of the blogosphere, one I wish had been tempered by a more reasonable figure. “Print media is dying, Lorraine,” he hollers at an editor who refuses to print his initial story about the epidemic, “I’ll save you a seat on the bus.” But even if I feel optimistic about the blogosphere, it’s undeniable that conspiracy theories widely disseminated can damage our national life, whether they make us sick or perpetuate lies about the causes of the September 11 attacks.