A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Contagion (2001)

June 9, 2011

Contagion

Why on Earth do we own this movie? I suppose it’s because it looked like a fun low budget thriller and it had Bruce Boxleitner in it. And it only cost us about two dollars. Having sat through it now I can say that it didn’t live up to (or down to) my cheesy movie expectations. Instead it is simply a forgettable and unambitious film. It’s not bad – not even bad enough to be good. It’s just kind of there – using up ninety minutes of my life.

When a pair of terrorists shoot a deadly ebola strain of virus into the President of the United States in an attempt to make a few million cheap bucks things do not go as they had planned. The Secret Service quickly rush the President to a local hospital and find a prominent virologist. The virologist – Dr. Diane Landis – realises that this deadly virus must be contained and quarantines the entire hospital. Then she has only a limited amount of time to find a cure before the President enacts his last ditch effort to keep the virus from getting out into the general population and nukes the hospital.

Really that’s pretty much the whole movie right there. Stretching that out to a full ninety minutes requires a little padding. There’s a sorta-kinda romance between President Tron and the good doctor. There’s an officious hospital administrator who wants to get out. There’s an exceptionally irritating orphan boy who keeps turning up. There’s an uppity army general who stages a poorly thought out coup. All of this sort of thrown together in a blender to make an inoffensive movie frappe.

This movie puzzles me. It has all the hallmarks of a made-for-TV film. It’s presented on this DVD in glorious 3×4 full screen. It has a cast of completely unknowns. It’s so inoffensively bland. And yet it clearly has a slightly bigger budget than I would expect from your average movie of the week. It has a convoy of army vehicles for example. It has lots of cool hazmat gear costumes. It has helicopters. It even has a (hilarious) explosion special effect.

I don’t want to be unkind to this movie. i think it was trying its level best. It can’t help it that the scenes of the doctor being rushed around the hospital in a golf cart are laughable. I can clearly see what kind of taught thriller this is trying to be – it just doesn’t quite work. It’s too implausible and silly. Too predictable.

The biggest problem the movie has is that it’s just not bad enough. Take Lin Shaye who plays the evil doctor Laura Crowley who created this particular strain of the virus. She’s the primary bad-guy here and the part is written as a scenery chewing madwoman. Lin seems to be trying to play the role straight as a woman who perceives herself as wronged – and this choice weakens the film. This is a part that requires crazy over-acting to sell it, and I’m not sure Lin is up to it.

The end result is a movie that feels interminable in its plodding and predictable path towards the exceptionally silly final confrontation on the hospital roof. Every fifteen minutes or so I would turn to Amanda and ask “is it over yet?” That’s not a sign of a gripping thrill ride. As i said before, this isn’t a bad movie. It’s just not any good either. It’s kind of just there – a movie that got made for some inexplicable reason with the intention of filling up a two hour time slot on some television station with room for thirty minutes of low budget local ads. The movie didn’t sit on me and hurt me like some of the worst films in our collection – but I do want my ninety minutes back.

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June 9, 2011 - Posted by | daily reviews |

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