Contagion ★★★★½

Harrowing, terrifying, and supremely engaging, Steven Soderbergh's "Contagion" is epidemic-based thriller that observes both globally and intimately scaled drama. Soderbergh's stylistic flourishes are mnimal, but the film succeeds as a thoughtful and accessible piece of work.

Moving quickly through the spread of a heretofore unknown disease, the film follows the contagion from first victims to massive casualties. Soderbergh pays close attention to families in distress and entire cities in disease stricken panic. The film moves seamlessly from these episodes, and its character-based narrative focus is compellingly gripping.

As is Soderbergh's gift, he assembles a recognizable cast of names, all of whom inhabit their roles with skill. From Matt Damon's everyman father, to Marion Cotillard's cosmopolitan doctor, the cast is credible and effective.

While Soderbergh tones down his usual snappy editing and Los Angeles beige filters, "Contagion" still bears recognizable stylistic elements. The film alternates shades of icy and sterile blues with sickly yellows, aesthetically supporting the clinical and disease oriented beats of the film. The semi-nonlinear narrative pulses with brisk but measured editing.

While the film is an effectively visceral thriller, it also offers enough subtext and thematic heft the deepen an already rich and timely experience. Mixed into Scott Z. Burns' script are suggestionas about the virulent nature of information and questions about the foundations of societal health: the instutions that keep society safe. The end product is an excellent film and one of Steven Soderbergh's best efforts.

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