Contagion: When real life imitates art

29 Mar, 2020 - 00:03 0 Views
Contagion: When real life imitates art

The Sunday Mail

Tinashe Kusema
Film Review

I have had to bow to pressure or should I say public demand to do a review of Steven Soderbergh’s 2011 thriller “Contagion”.

Requests have been coming from all corners, but of course led by followers of this column and fellow workmates.

The first one came from my immediate boss who, in the middle of the night some seven days ago, asked if I had watched or had a copy of the movie “Contagion”.

What interested me most about his enquiry is the fact that he is not a movie buff.

I have known him for over a decade now, and the closest thing to film I have actually seen him watch is “Scandal”, but not your Hollywood “Scandal” series.

Thus, I immediately knew I had to do something.

No film in history has ever been more relevant to us than “Contagion”.

Scenes from the movie, which are centred on a virus outbreak causing terror throughout most parts of Asia and the Americas, are a carbon copy of what the world is currently experiencing through the coronavirus.

Returning home from a business trip in Hong Kong, Beth Emhoff (Gwyneth Paltrow), began feeling a bit under the weather.

She dismisses the symptoms of failing health as jetlag.

But that proves to be a fatal blunder!

She later on dies from a mysterious respiratory disease.

Her husband, Mitch (Matt Damon), upon receiving the news of his wife’s death returns home to also find his stepson, Clark, also suffered similar symptoms and died.

It is later discovered that both were affected by an unknown virus, one which he is immune to though he initially gets quarantined.

Soon people from the different parts of the United States and Hong Kong start showing similar symptoms and dying, which leads to the intervention of the Centres for Disease Control (CDC).

Meanwhile, people start getting quarantined amid another outbreak of panic.

All this is before the true nature of the virus, which has something to do with bats and pigs, is found and a vaccine follows.

Now, given the film is almost a decade old, I will not dwell too much into its merits and demerits, but rather focus on the lessons we can draw from it.

I enjoyed this movie and I am not sure how I missed one of Matt Damon’s rare good performances.

This is not to say that he is a bad actor, but Damon, and his buddie Ben Affleck, are just not my cup of tea.

Probably this explains why I missed the movie back then.

There a couple of political undertones, here and there, which while expected from a Hollywood movie, weakened the film’s global appeal.

There are a lot of mirror elements between the novel virus in “Contagion” and the coronavirus — also known as Covid-19 — that has devastated the global community today.

The movie’s virus is more virulent and should serve as a warning for all those concerned with the dangers that our current Covid-19 pandemic poses.

The film opens with what appears to be random objects, actions and people; namely a cough, the first person affected (Beth), airport, bus and random people.

These items serve as carriers of the virus, well before our patient zero (Beth) begins to show her first symptoms.

The lesson here is to show how such viruses are transmitted.

Early testing and screening, especially when one starts showing symptoms related to Covid-19, could be the difference between life and death.

In this case, the difference between your life and death and the lives and deaths of countless others.

I believe the film courted a star-studded cast for a reason.

The likes of Lawrence Fishburne, Damon, Paltrow, John Hawke, Jude Law, Marion Cotillard, Kate Winslet and Brian Cranston were used to show sickness does not discriminate or care about your wealth, social standing, age, sex or race.

Finally, and most importantly, communication is key.

There is a scene where an agent from the CDC is trying to educate some politicians on the importance of getting the message and information on the virus out to the people, but keeps getting stonewalled by bureaucrats who accuse him of trying to cause unnecessary panic.

In our own situation, the fight against Covid-19 is at times slowed down by fake social media messages.

Misinformation definitely leads to panic, anxiety, fear and chaos.

I do recommend that you give “Contagion” a quick watch, or re-watch, and let it act as a guide on the dos and don’ts of dealing with a pandemic.

In the meantime, stay safe.

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