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Steven Soderbergh
Matt Damon, Kate Winslet, Laurence Fishburne
Scott Z. Burns

Healthcare professionals, government officials and everyday people find themselves in the midst of a pandemic as the CDC works to find a cure.

Box Office:
$60 million.
Opening Weekend:
Domestic Gross:

Rated PG-13.

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
Quebecois French Dolby 5.1
Spanish Dolby 5.1
Castillian Dolby 5.1
French Dolby 5.1
German Dolby 5.1
Italian Dolby 5.1
Czech Dolby 5.1
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 106 min.
Price: $33.99
Release Date: 2/27/2024

• “The Reality of Contagion” Featurette
• “The Contagion Detectives” Featurette
• “How a Virus Changes the World” Featurette


-LG OLED65C6P 65-Inch 4K Ultra HD Smart OLED TV
-Marantz SR7010 9.2 Channel Full 4K Ultra HD AV Surround Receiver
-Sony UBP-X700 4K Ultra HD Dolby Vision Blu-ray Player
-Chane A2.4 Speakers
-SVS SB12-NSD 12" 400-watt Sealed Box Subwooferfer

Contagion [4K UHD] (2011)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (February 22, 2024)

In 2011, a movie about a global pandemic felt vaguely like science-fiction. In 2024… not so much.

Steven Soderbergh’s 2011 release Contagion now seems prescient. The main body of this review will repeat what I thought about the film back then, but I’ll add a postscript to look at how it feels post-COVID.

On a business trip to Hong Kong, Beth Emhoff (Gwyneth Paltrow) comes down with a virus that rapidly kills her. Home in Minnesota, she spreads this to her son Clark (Griffin Morrow) – and the rest of the world, basically, as the illness rapidly scours the globe and leaves many corpses in its wake.

Center for Disease Control administrator Dr. Ellis Cheever (Laurence Fishburne) tries to get on top of things and sends Dr. Erin Mears (Kate Winslet) to Minnesota to rein in the illness there, while Dr. Ally Hextall (Jennifer Ehle) spearheads efforts to find a cure/vaccine. Dr. Leonora Orantes (Marion Cotillard) heads to Asia to find the virus’s origins as well.

On the civilian front, Internet journalist Alan Krumwiede (Jude Law) throws around conspiracy accusations and also claims to know a cure – one that may or may not boost his financial bottom line. Back in Minnesota, Beth’s husband Mitch (Matt Damon) highlights the human side of the virus, as he tries to lead a normal life – and also keep his daughter Jory (Anna Jacoby-Heron) alive.

If you expect the action orientation of 1995’s Outbreak, Contagion will disappoint. Not that anyone should expect that sort of movie from Soderbergh, as it seemed unlikely he’d go for a potboiling take on the topic.

Indeed, Contagion manages to stay fairly cool in the face of its drama – maybe a little too cool, as the film can seem awfully detached at times. I guess I expect a movie about the possible extinction of the human race to boast a wee bit more emotion, you know?

The film tends toward a clinical detachment that doesn’t serve it especially well. While I normally appreciate a lack of overheated drama, it’d be nice to get more feeling and passion from such a charged tale.

Soderbergh essentially uses the same structure he highlighted in 2000’s Traffic. Hey, he won an Oscar for that flick - why not do it again?

While I don’t think this format necessarily hurts Contagion, I’m also not sure it helps the film either. Soderbergh managed to better balance the various subplots in Traffic, though it helped he didn’t try to juggle as many balls.

Traffic essentially focused on three threads, while Contagion attempts more than that. It also attempts them in less time, as it runs 106 minutes vs. the 147 minutes of Traffic.

This means that characters receive precious little exposition and screen time. Some subplots feel utterly extraneous anyway.

For instance, the scenes with Dr. Orantes suffer the worst, especially when the character becomes embroiled in a kidnapping event that feels like it comes from a different movie. I think Contagion would’ve been more successful if it attempted less ambition – or ran a lot longer.

Indeed, Contagion often feels like a mini-series that got cut heavily to fit a feature film length. With so many characters and story threads, the tale would’ve worked better if it received much more time.

Expand this thing to a four-hour cable movie and it’d have probably been more absorbing. As it stands, the flick feels rushed and thin.

But that doesn’t make it bad. Even with its flaws, Contagion manages to keep us with it.

Clearly it helps that the movie boasts an absolutely top-notch cast. Soderbergh enjoys such a great reputation that he can recruit “A”-list actors for his films, even the ones with lower budgets. Those actors will take pay cuts to appear in his efforts.

This means a whole raft of them here, though admittedly, Contagion isn’t super-heavy on star power. This isn’t an Ocean’s film, so mega-celebrities like George Clooney, Brad Pitt and Julia Roberts don’t show up.

The highest wattage comes from Damon and Paltrow, I suspect. As such, this isn’t quite the “A-list Fest” we got from the Ocean’s movies.

But the cast does teem with definite “B+” actors – in terms of star power - and plenty of awards. Paltrow, Winslet and Cotillard all won Best Actress Oscars.

In addition, Fishburne, Damon, Law, John Hawkes, Bryan Cranston and Elliott Gould have all enjoyed Academy Award nominations for their acting as well. The presence of so much talent adds depth to the film and helps make it seem more substantial.

The actors can’t quite overcome the movie’s negatives, though. Contagion takes on a fascinating – and terrifying – topic, and it delivers a reasonably interesting experience. However, it rushes through its many subplots at an extreme pace, and it lacks the drama to make it better than just “pretty good”.

2024 post-script: unsurprisingly, Contagion hits much harder now than it did in 2011. So much of the film echoes our actual experiences that it becomes downright creepy at times.

This real-life reflection doesn’t fix the movie’s problems, as the too-rapid pacing and general absence of great depth remain an issue. Nonetheless, what once acted as a scary cautionary tale now exists as a largely dead-on take of how events materialized. These factors make Contagion even eerier circa 2024.

The Disc Grades: Picture B+/ Audio B/ Bonus D+

Contagion appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this 4K UHD Disc. A native 4K product, the image looked pretty solid.

Sharpness largely succeeded, as only a smidgen of softness impacted some wider shots – and this seemed to stem from severe “depth of field” at times. The majority of the flick offered positive delineation and felt tight.

I saw no signs of jagged edges or moiré effects, and the movie lacked edge haloes. Shot digitally, the presentation also showed no source defects.

Like many Soderbergh flicks, Contagion went with a heavily stylized palette. Each shot/location tended toward one dominant hue, and these changed all the time.

This meant one might opt for sickly green, while another would go amber and another would use chilly blue. The disc presented the tones with appropriate clarity, and HDR gave the tones added emphasis.

Blacks were deep and dark, and shadows showed nice delineation. HDR contributed extra oomph to whites and contrast. This was a consistently positive image.

Similar feelings greeted the film’s DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack. Music and dialogue dominated the soundscape, so don’t expect a killer mix.

The score used the speakers well, and the effects fleshed out the environment in a positive manner. Material tended toward the environmental side of the street, as livelier sequences popped up infrequently.

Still, the mix offered a good sense of place. The occasional semi-dynamic sequence – such as riots and military elements – boasted a strong impression.

Audio quality was always top-notch. Music sounded warm and full, while effects were clear and accurate.

When necessary, the track featured tight low-end response. Speech sounded natural and distinctive. This was a perfectly acceptable soundtrack, but it just didn’t do anything especially impressive.

How did the 4K UHD compare to the original Blu-ray version? Both came with identical 5.1 audio.

As mentioned, the movie provided a native 4K image, and it showed clear upgrades over the BD in terms of delineation, colors and blacks. This turned into a solid step up in visual quality.

The 4K replicates the BD’s extras, and three featurettes appear. The Reality of Contagion goes for 11 minutes, 29 seconds and offers statements from producers Stacey Sher, Michael Shamberg and Gregory Jacobs, senior technical advisors Mark Brilliant, W. Ian Lipkin and Laurie Garrett, writer Scott Z. Burns, Global Viral Forecasting director Nathan Wolfe, technical advisor Mark Smolinski, production designer Howard Cummings, reporter Sanjay Gupta, and actors Kate Winslet, Matt Damon, Gwyneth Paltrow, Jude Law, Marion Cotillard, Chin Han, Jennifer Ehle, Bryan Cranston and Laurence Fishburne.

“Reality” looks at the facts behind the movie’s fiction and gives us notes about viruses and the potential for a global pandemic as well as research and the film’s attempts at realism. Though the piece tends to be rather glossy, it gets into some interesting topics and throws out some decent details.

The Contagion Detectives runs four minutes, 57 seconds and features Sher, Winslet, Cotillard, Burns, Jacobs, Brilliant, Garrett, Smolinski, Cranston, Lipkin, Law, Ehle, Cummings, and Fishburne.

“Detectives” looks at more research and realism in the film, with an emphasis on the scientists who work to thwart the outbreak. Like “Reality”, it tends to be somewhat fluffy, but it throws out a reasonable amount of information.

Finally, How a Virus Changes the World lasts one minute, 59 seconds. It delivers a brief look at how viruses develop and what it surmises would happen if one occurred.

It’s cutesy and kind of obnoxious. It does get some of what eventually happened with COVID right, but it’s not dead on, mainly because it views a pandemic through the prism of the flu.

With plenty of Oscar-winning talent both behind and in front of the camera, Contagion boasts a much higher pedigree than the usual thriller – and it packs a greater punch after COVID-19 than it did in 2011. Despite these strengths, the film seems too hurried and objective to become a great movie, so it becomes consistently interesting but spotty. The 4K UHD offers good picture and audio but skimps on supplements. I’d recommend a rental of this one if the subject interests you, but don’t expect anything scintillating.

To rate this film visit the Blu-Ray review of CONTAGION

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