“For a subject like this, that pace mirrors the progression of the infection itself and how things spiral very quickly out of control, so you want that sense of acceleration,” adds Damon. “Steven knows exactly how to keep multiple threads alive and cut back to each one at the right time. The story really moves.”
“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.
“It’s not often you get the opportunity to make a movie that touches on themes that resonate with everyone, and can also be an entertaining thriller,” says Soderbergh. “When [screenwriter] Scott Z. Burns and I talked about doing a serious film about a pandemic, I thought that because of what’s been happening in the world, plus all the advances in medicine and technology, we had to approach it in an ultra-realistic manner.” He admits, “Having been through the research now, I will never again think the same way about how we interact with one another. You cannot immerse yourself in this world and not be forever altered by your awareness of it.”
That awareness, one of the film’s themes, is amplified as the virus spreads.
What makes “Contagion” so frightening on both an intellectual and a visceral level is that, while fictional, it is grounded in real science and real possibilities—and seen through the drama of individual lives and relationships that could soon be lost or forever changed. “It’s important that these characters feel like real people and not just medical experts or professionals in their field,” says Kate Winslet, who stars as a doctor working in one of the disease’s first identified hot-spots. “You’re accessing the world of this epidemic through human channels.”
Amid recent warnings of antibiotic-resistant superbugs and the ever-present concern over potential weaponization of biological agents, “we didn’t have to make anything up that wasn’t true, in a sense, to make it a more terrifying ride,” says Gregory Jacobs, Soderbergh’s longtime producing partner. “I love a good zombie movie, but we know that’s not real. The impact here comes from dealing with a horror set in our own backyards that manifests, at first, like the common cold. People look normal, they’re functional, so they move around and spread it without being aware. No one realizes there’s cause for concern until they’re critical. And by then it’s too late.”
“I think it’s going to be shocking and dramatic and a little upsetting,” says Jude Law of the film’s potential impact on audiences. “Also relevant in ways you don’t necessarily think about every day. Not touching door handles, and coughing into your hand as opposed to your elbow….suddenly all these little things start fizzing at the forefront of your consciousness.”
Opening across the Philippines in September, “Contagion” is distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures, a Warner Bros. Entertainment company.