Few directors have the confidence and ability to swing between genres and budgets but one of them is Soderbergh - for every Ocean's 11 that he's delivered, he has also given us The Girlfriend Experience.
Now it's the turn of his high profile, big star-filled movie once again. Not too dissimilar from the power punch of the Clooney/Pitt starring trilogy, what we have here is another "count em on both hands" recognisable actor-fest. However, this is more of a bare bones documentary that moves away from light hearted fun and high jinks and literally punches you instead in the gut whilst slapping you in the face with statistics and consequences that will float in your mind long after the end credits have stopped rolling.
Anyone who has seen the likes of Deep Blue Sea and Executive Decision will know their type of movie and the connection they share - the fact that no one, no matter how famous they are in their own cast list, is not safe from being killed off at the drop of a hat. Contagion now joins their ranks except here, it could be the touching of a hat or a door knob that you could send packing and leaving the rest of the cast to watch nervously for coughs or dizzy spells...
With the use of a documentary style and actors playing down their "star" quality, Soderbergh manages to pull off the unthinkable and makes you care for some of these characters, so much so that you when you are confronted with their deaths you have either shock or dismay at their demise - the first is a shock and one of the others is so unexpected as you are rooting for them from the get-go that the impact is tangible. Even more so when the fact is that they cannot be buried in a body bag as the death toll has outstripped the resources available to the government.
It's the little, simple facts like that the cause the uncomfortableness to seep in whilst watching it. There's no monkey to catch to find a cure, no chase to resolve the epidemic, just simply the truth that a contagion can spread so easily and people who should help could find themselves bound by either red tape, fear or greed. All this is intensified with the aid of lingering camera shots of human contact and freeze frames to indicate the possible spread of infection - all with alarming frequency.
The cast all present solid performances with Damon billed as the everyman that helps us to relate to the epidemic that is unfolded days at a time like a poisoned advent calender whilst Law is the inside man who appears to know exactly what the government doesn't want the public to know. However, the standout performance goes to Winslet who struggles to deal with both the infected and the bureaucrats who want to control everything but are unable to in reality. Thought provoking, and unnerving this is more nail biting than all the slasher horror movies of this year put together.
UK release date: 21.10.11