Contagion (US - BD RA)
Jonathan is afraid of touching his own face after watching Soderbergh's latest
Contagion follows the rapid progress of a lethal airborne virus that kills within days. As the fast-moving epidemic grows, the worldwide medical community races to find a cure and control the panic that spreads faster than the virus itself. At the same time, ordinary people struggle to survive in a society coming apart. (From the WB synopsis)
This film held up quite well on a second viewing at home. Soderbergh has put together a wonderfully talented cast and for the most part he gets great use out of them. Personally I felt like the plot line surrounding Marion Cotillard's character wasn't fleshed out enough. It's aptly directed and well performed, but it didn't have the impact it appeared to be going for. I would have preferred that portion of the runtime be dedicated to more involving segments of the story. Where Contagion's real strength lies is in it's realism. Now, I'm not an expert on viral epidemics and how different agencies would handle the situation, but to an uneducated viewer like myself this movie feels totally believable. Soderbergh is smart to avoid sensationalizing the infection with too many violent images or by pushing it into apocalyptic territory. This isn't a zombie thriller, but a thoughtful examination on how society would react to a viral outbreak and how different kinds of individuals and institutions would work to handle the situation. It gets under your skin not with cheap scares and creepy imagery, but by showing just how easily a disease can spread and how fragile our bodies are. In a way, seeing a realistic depiction of how society, the economy, and government institutions could crumble from a biological outbreak is scarier than any army of flesh eaters.
As expected, Soderbergh uses the Red One Mysterium X camera which makes for a very clean digital picture with deep blacks and smooth surfaces. As with most Red One films, it looks quite good. Colours mostly consist of a filtered yellow appearance, with outdoor scenes in the cold having a particularly cool palette of blues and greens. Detail is often soft, but it appears to be intentional. Often scenes will have some blurring to give it a weary diseased look. The effect is very similar to a tilt-shift lens. Despite coming from an impressive source, this 1080p transfer from Warner Bros. has a few faults. Certain dark areas of the picture are prone to distracting digital noise, which I've begun to see a trend in with Red One transfers. I also noticed a couple instances of blocking and a minor case of haloing. When checking the disc, the total feature takes up 18 GB on a BD-25. It seems Warner Bros. went the cheap route instead of going all out with a high bit rate (seems to be a trend with their recent titles), which could account for the compression artefacts. Luckily because the equipment it was filmed on is so impressive, the majority of the movie still looks very good and only the pickiest videophiles will find much to complain about.
For the most part, this DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track doesn't disappoint. Aside from Cliff Martinez's awesome thumping score, there isn't a lot of spatial quality to the mix. Aside from ambient noise, the only scenes that really take advantage of the surround setup are those that features rioters and crowds of upset people, or traffic jams of cars trying to get out of a city. The score is also where the LFE channel gets most of its activity. For all its paranoia and tension, at the end of the day Contagion is mostly a movie of people talking, and on that front this audio track delivers without a hitch. Dialogue levels are perfectly clear and understandable, never being drowned out by the moody score or the noisy surroundings. It's not an audio track that will stand out as an example of brilliant sound mixing, but there are no apparent flaws either.
The Reality of Contagion (HD, 11:29) is a brief featurette where producers, writers, actors, and some scientists talk about viruses and how they work in the context of the movie. Studied biology students will probably find most of this information unsurprising and some of the interviewed subjects statements filled with hyperbole. It's a good introduction for those that are unfamiliar with the science, but it really only scratches the surface.
The Contagion Detectives (HD, 04:57) is a look at the real scientists and doctors who work to fight epidemics and strive to understand them. The segment is filled mostly with interview footage of producers and actors talking about how real the science in the movie is, and the valuable advising resources they had on set while filming.
Contagion: How A Virus Changes the World (HD, 02:01) A brief, and frankly obnoxious, educational look at how a virus spreads. It's done with graphical representations and a hokey elevator music in the background. There's a even a few very unfunny pop culture references (Did I really see the words "haters gonna hate"?) The narration goes so fast that you wonder if someone restricted them to the two minute runtime. I suppose if you're feeling particularly patient and slow the video down, you might learn something or find some useful info on how to prepare yourself for a viral outbreak. I wouldn't bother.
Contagion is a smart and effective thriller from Steven Soderbergh that works best as a realistic depiction of how the world would respond to a viral outbreak. Some of the more personal stories don't hold much water, but the overall experience is enough to at least recommend a rental. Warner Bros. delivers a solid video and audio presentation of the film, but the extras are disappointing fluff. I really would've liked a Soderbergh commentary track.
* Note: The above images are taken from the Blu-ray release and resized for the page. Full-resolution captures are available by clicking individual images, but due to .jpg compression they are not necessarily representative of the quality of the transfer.
Review by Jonathan Hogberg
Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13
Release Date: 3rd January 2011
Disc Type: Blu-ray Disc
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English, Dolby Digital 2.0 English, Dolby Digital 5.1 French, Dolby Digital 5.1 Spanish
Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish
Extras: The Reality of Contagion, The Contagion Detectives, Contagion: How a Virus Changes the World, DVD Copy, Ultraviolet Digital Copy
Easter Egg: No
Director: Steven Soderbergh
Cast: Matt Damon, Kate Winslet, Jude Law, Laurence Fishburne, Gwyneth Paltrow,
Genre: Drama and Thriller
Length: 106 minutes
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