Movie review: Contagion

Brad Keefe, Columbus Alive

It's fascinating to think that despite millions of years of evolution and the invention of the iPhone, all it would really take is one pesky flu strain to make society unravel like a cheap hipster scarf.

Director Steven Soderbergh's new film, "Contagion," is a multifaceted look at the spread of a lethal virus. It's like "Traffic" meets "Outbreak" ... only not quite as good as that sounds and not as good as its cast and crew suggests.

As an unnamed airborne virus spreads, a trickle becomes a planetary flood. We see this terrifying lesson in exponential numbers through the eyes of medical officials (Laurence Fishburne, Kate Winslet, Marion Cotillard) and civilians, including a grieving father (Matt Damon) and a conspiracy-minded blogger (Jude Law).

For an hour or so, "Contagion" is so realistic that germaphobes would be heading for the exits if they weren't already terrified of movie theaters.

But as the plot virally spreads to more and more characters, you tend to wish for a bit more focus. That amazing cast becomes a distraction as we end up stargazing.

Soderbergh remains supremely talented and wrings some tender moments of real humanity from the chaos. But overall, he just can't land this one. It's an epidemic disappointment.


Opens Friday

2 1/2 stars out of 4