Beth Emhoff is a high-profile business executive whose return from Hong Kong has seemingly left her tired. As she continues to get sick, a few individuals die from a mysterious flu-like illness. When Beth falls victim to a seizure, her husband gets the shock of his life when he learns of her death only a short time later. Faced with the possibility of an epidemic, the US Center of Disease Control gets to work trying to identify and develop a vaccine for this disease. When Dr. Ellis Cheever and Dr. Erin Mears discover that the vaccine will take months to discover and even more time to produce and distribute, they strive to promote responsible and safe procedures to hopefully minimize the effect of this worldwide pandemic.
Starring: Matt Damon (Mitch Emhoff), Gwyneth Paltrow (Beth Emhoff), Griffin Kane (Clark Morrow), Laurence Fishburne (Dr. Ellis Cheever), John Hawkes (Roger), Jude Law (Alan Krumwiede), Monique Gabriela Curnen (Lorraine Vasquez), Marion Cotillard (Dr. Leonora Orantes), Kate Winslet (Dr. Erin Mears), Larry Clarke (Dave), Anna Jacoby-Heron (Jory Emhoff), Elliott Gould (Dr. Ian Sussman), Demetri Martin (Dr. David Eisenberg), Jennifer Ehle (Dr. Ally Hextall)
There is quite an all-star cast in this medical thriller. Matt Damon puts forth the best performance and the most range of the group. His concerned parental personality certainly gives the scientific discussion a more human element. Gwyneth Paltrow, who plays his wife Beth, has a much shorter role but has a wildly dramatic death scene (shown in the preview) and certainly makes a memorable movie moment. Laurence Fishburne’s role are the lead advisor for the epidemic has a great touch of professionalism which is rocked by the pressure of personal interests. Kate Winslet’s character exhibits strong determination to a fault with a lack of care for herself. Jude Law does a great job with the “activisim” role and certainly plays up as a challenger. Marion Cotillard can easily be forgotten as her story is not the primary focus and is much smaller scale than the rest of the cast.
Steven Soderbergh’s film on the panic of a serious illness is an interesting combination of film styles and perceptions. While the movie starts with what seems to be a personal element with the story of Beth and Mitch (Damon), there is a large focus on the science of disease development and medical exploration. As the movie continues, there is an interesting blend of the two elements with the parental protection of Mitch’s surviving daughter and the kidnapping of Dr. Orantes (Cotillard) with the continued researching by Dr. Mears (Winslet) and added political elements between Dr. Cheever (Fishburne) and Alan Krumwiede (Law).
Looking at the style, there is a lot of medical scenes discussing the discovery and process of the illness, but Soderbergh seems to rush through some of them with some non-dialogue sequences and abbreviation discussions. There is also a significantly different feel between the medical scenes and those featuring Damon, almost to the belief that there are two different movies happening. Cotillard’s scenes also seem to get a little lost in the packed movie following several major story lines. Her part also seems to be less entertaining with the more personal stories of Damon and Winslet, as well as the more compelling pundit element with Law.
While I was misled like many other people to think that this was a movie about the bird flu, I was also a little more surprised to find that I like the overall presentation of the epidemic medical feature. There are some areas with the sequencing and focus on some stories over others, but the overall film is entertaining.
Dan’s Rating: 3.5/5