As I have noted in a couple of previous movie reviews, futurism – the fictional depiction of how the future might look for humanity – is notoriously inaccurate. But what about fiction that is set in the present, but accidentally depicts – with alarming accuracy – actual events that come to pass?
Contagion is just such a movie.
When the coronavirus pandemic of 2020 exploded into the world, many of us took the news sideways, reacting in half-steps with half-information. At first, we cowered in our cars, closed schools and restaurants, and bought up all the hand sanitizer. When it got much worse, we went back to school, we went back to sporting events, we stopped masking and social distancing. You get the idea.
Contagion has pretty much everything the real pandemic offered: a dangerous virus, panicky people, concerned scientists, a quack blogger, even the kidnapping of a WHO epidemiologist. It even shows the zoonosis from bats to domestic pigs to humans, similar to the 2019 zoonosis.
“Cover your mouth please,” results in, “fuck off!”
“We are only able to give 50 doses today,” results in a rush and riot at a pharmacy.
Some things this movie missed, at least to some degree…
- The weird coprophelial toilet paper hordage in early 2020
- The crushingly disappointing political scene in 2020
- The silly, childish anti-vax, anti-mask scene masquerading as personal rights advocacy or patriotism
- In most places, vaccine distribution is sensible (first to need, first to get), not by lottery as depicted in the movie
- Society stayed mostly ordered, with the glaring exception of January 6
This movie was based on the 2002-2004 SARS epidemic, and the 2009 H1N1 influenza pandemic, after which Steven Soderbergh hopped into a time machine to today, made some notes, then went back to 2011 to start filming.
This film was gripping when it came out, but is over-the-top relevant today. I highly recommend it.