2020 has been wild.
Bushfires, Kobe, MAFS and now an unprecedent global pandemic and economic shutdown. Our lives, for the time being at least, have fundamentally changed. It’s been hard, we have had to adapt and learn how to cope. If I can offer one piece of solace – our coronavirus crisis is nothing compared to the 2011 film Contagion.
The movie, which stars a cavalcade of well-known actors, such as Matt Damon, Jude Law, Kate Winslet, and Gwyneth Paltrow, is an almost clairvoyant portrayal of the world at the mercy of a novel coronavirus, originally found in bats and exported from China.
Except it is much, much, more wild than real life.
The plot is multi-faceted – with the experiences of several, disparate but overlapping characters told over the 106-minute runtime.
There’s Beth Emhoff (Paltrow), a senior executive on a work trip to Hong Kong and patient zero for MEV-1 – the name of the pathogen depicted. Her husband, Mitch (Damon), a Minnesota man dealing with the rapid developments in society and his own life as best as he can. Dr Erin Mears (Winslet) and Dr Ellis Cheever (portrayed by Lawrence Fishburne) of the Centre for Disease Control (CDC), who must investigate the root of the crisis and manage its containment respectively. Finally, there is Alan Krumwiede (Law), a blogger, charlatan and crank who spreads misinformation and false hope to millions.
The different perspectives of these characters are woven together to create a praiseworthy film that examines both the macro-level (the attempts to limit its spread and develop a vaccine) and the micro-level (dealing with the loss of a loved one, fear and panic, etc.). A solid cinematic work that finely balances the two adequately.
Contagion entices you with its realism and drama but entraps you with its emotional weight.
However, the movie is nuts and much darker than our current predicament. If your mind is sufficiently broken by the quarantine (like mine) it’s escapism to compare the bleakness and unpredictability of Contagion with actuality.
Social distancing just does not happen in the film. The virus is allowed to spread far and wide until civil society collapses (which occurs relatively quickly), yet somehow there is still hand sanitiser available. Riots occur at a greater rate than the virus spreads, a state border is shut down without anyone knowing, a scientist injects herself with a vaccine in the hope that it works and most amazingly, the head of the CDC has a debate on CNN with a random blogger about the merits of some unproven home remedy.
There’s two ways you can deal with our current virus-induced lockdown-in-anything-but-name. It can only be these two. Sorry, I don’t make the rules, I just spell them out.
One, you can continue to watch the news and become more and more anxious and depressed as you navigate these uncharted waters with nothing more than the metaphorical boat without a paddle, or…
Two, you can watch Contagion and enjoy how not crazy reality is compared to this 106-minute cinematic experience.
I promise you; life will seem almost cheery by comparison.