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Movie Review: 'Contagion' -- 3.5 stars

Anna Jacoby-Heron as Jory Emhoff and Matt Damon

Anna Jacoby-Heron as Jory Emhoff and Matt Damon as Mitch Emhoff in 'Contagion.' (Warner Bros.) Photo Credit: Anna Jacoby-Heron as Jory Emhoff and Matt Damon as Mitch Emhoff in 'Contagion.' (Warner Bros.)

Contagion
3.5 stars
Directed by Steven Soderbergh
Starring Matt Damon, Laurence Fishburne, Kate Winslet, Jennifer Ehle, Jude Law, Gwyneth Paltrow, Marion Cotillard
Rated R

Many outbreak movies stoke fear with zombies, government conspiracy theories and rampant “Lord of the Flies” scenarios. Then there’s “Contagion,” which finds horror in the everyday details.

In this edge-of-your-seat thriller, director Steven Soderbergh tracks the spread of a highly infectious virus as it kills a few people, then dozens of people, then hundreds and eventually millions. Soderbergh captures the deaths with an eerie, almost clinical objectivity as the victims sweat, blanch, seize up, foam at the mouth and eventually mummify around the lips.

Much of “Contagion” takes place at the front lines, as researchers and doctors (Laurence Fishburne, Kate Winslet, Jennifer Ehle) at the Centers for Disease Control try to work against the clock — and against distractions such as the conspiracy-theorist blogger (Jude Law), who believes the government is keeping people in the dark. Urgency is everywhere, and no protagonists (even the A-list stars) are safe from an untimely demise.

What’s refreshing about “Contagion” is that Soderbergh doesn’t milk the drama. The elements are all here — aggravating bureaucrats, worried parents and spouses — but Soderbergh is more concerned with keeping an unrelenting pace and letting the horror emerge organically.

Then there are all those close-up shots of doorknobs, subway rails, cups, handshakes — any place your grimy hands can come into contact with other grimy hands.

If you weren’t a hypochondriac before, you will be after walking out of “Contagion.”


Movie Extras

As usual, Steven Soderbergh was both the director and cinematographer on “Contagion.”

This is the first time Gwyneth Paltrow and Matt Damon have worked together since “The Talented Mr. Ripley.”

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