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Contagion: Movie Review

Chris Carpenter


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It can really happen quite easily. A pig in China is infected with an unknown virus. The pig is delivered to a slaughterhouse in Hong Kong and then is shipped on to a restaurant in a local posh hotel where a chef butchers it. The virus mutates and passes from the hands of the kitchen staff to tourists eating in the restaurant. From there the tourists travel home, become sick, and die in every corner of the globe – but not before coughing and convulsing in the company of others.

This scenario is very possible. In Contagion (opening in theaters nationwide this weekend), director Steven Soderbergh takes movie goers on a clinical journey through the scientific process, mathematics, and political implications of what happens when there is such an outbreak. Unlike other movies such as Outbreak that has tackled this topic in the past, Contagion is far more realistic and leaves the viewer with an incredible desire to purchase hand sanitizer by the case.

Gwyneth Paltrow is the first victim, a Minneapolis wife and mother returning from a Hong Kong business trip via a layover in Chicago. While in the Windy City she infects a man with whom she was having an affair. Eventually, she arrives home where she dies a graphic death in front of her husband (Matt Damon) and young son, who dies from the virus later that day. From there it spreads quickly and exponentially.

For the most part Soderbergh steers clear of high drama and emotion by not focusing on the lives of the victims and their families. Instead, he shifts viewer’s attention to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and their race against time to not only slow down the virus but to somehow isolate it and subsequently find a cure.

Laurence Fishburne, in an understated but well acted performance, plays the CDC chief who leads a frantic team of experts that includes Kate Winslet and Jennifer Ehle. Representing the World Health Organization, Marion Cotillard travels to Hong Kong and a remote region of China in a quest to find the origin of the outbreak.   

An interesting sub-plot of Contagion is a conspiracy theorist (Jude Law) whose blog posts capture the imagination of the world community.  He posts viral videos about the virus, accuses the CDC of not considering herbal remedies, and claims the U.S. Government is not doing anything about the outbreak to give the pharmaceutical industry time to make their claim.

Perhaps the greatest takeaway from Contagion is the sobering realization that such a simple incident involving one pig can have such far reaching, catastrophic results. Tens of millions of people die worldwide, perfectly normal societies devolve into anarchy, and the primal desire to survive conquers any sense of rational thought.

Christians will leave the theater with a desire to share the Gospel with others based on the reality that no one knows when such a horrific outbreak could occur.

Viewers should be warned of a few instances of mild profanity. Also, there are several intense scenes of people dying violently and in one instance a graphic autopsy is performed onscreen.

While Contagion is far from an uplifting film it is highly plausible and quite realistic. It is a film that sends a clear message. This is very possible and could happen. Are you ready for that day?

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About The Author


Chris Carpenter is the program director for, the official website of the Christian Broadcasting Network. He also serves as executive producer for myCBN Weekend, an Internet exclusive webcast show seen on In addition to his regular duties, Chris writes extensively for the website. Over the years, he has interviewed many notable entertainers, athletes, and politicians including Oscar winners Matthew McConaughy and Reese Witherspoon, evangelist Franklin Graham, author Max Lucado, Super Bowl winning coach Tony Dungy and former presidential hopefuls Sen. Rick Santorum and Gov. Mike