Out of context, this is how I imagined one of my most anticipated movie, “World War Z” should be. A multitude of characters, not necessarily related to one another, affected by a single event, and behaved accordingly to it, in their very own unique way. There’s no discernible hero in this movie. They are just people, not necessarily ordinary, but close enough to what we have in a real life. They are directly or indirectly affected by the event, and each, trying to adapt or confront with it that sometimes, they need to remind themselves of their personal values. It’s a profound, compelling story told in a rather ordinary way but nevertheless effectively captured the tension and thrilling experience of the event.
The event in question was an epidemic that spread across the globe in a breakneck pace. Mr.Soderbergh shown us that with the relative ease of us interacting with one another and traveling around the globe nowadays, it is terrifyingly easy to spread a disease. A simple gesture of shaking a stranger’s hand, or when handed a credit card to pay the bills, or when a waiter picked up a customer’s empty glass in a restaurant, all are considered simple and normal in our everyday’s life, could easily transmit a disease. And it was so for Beth Emhoff (Gwyneth Paltrow). This movie opens with a red lettering “Day 2” on screen, a cough, and Beth Emhoff. She has flown in from a business trip in Hong Kong, and waiting for her connecting plane in Chicago to her hometown in Minnesota. She’s obviously sick, but probably only an ordinary flu from an over exhaustion of a long trip. But then she died, unfortunately not after transferring the disease to her son, who died not soon after. The epidemic was quickly spread around the world, and eventually generated a proper attention from CDC, WHO, and the rest of the world as the magnitude of the event was realized to be at the cost of millions of lives.
Mr.Soderbergh styled this movie relatively close to a documentary movie. Events were told casually, almost nonchalantly. But personally, that what makes this movie works terribly well. It’s because everything works as it should in real life, its dangers were real and palpable. How the CDC and WHO scrambles to as quickly as possible runs down the patient zero, discovered the cause, and developing the cure. How ordinary people reacted when their relatives, or even worse, when their very own lives were threatened, and how the government, not exactly a model organization tried to protect its people. Or some really heroic ones, those who defy and forsake their own well being for the greater good. There are lots of characters in this movie and not one of them is the center of this tale. Because the tale itself is the center of the attention and deservingly so. The rest of the characters were just an ordinary humans trying to cope with the epidemic.
I really have no idea that I could missed an actress this much. But when I see Kate Winslet for the first time, my heart sank. It was so long time ago since I’ve seen her, and having no idea that she would appears in this movie, I realized that I missed her so much. She has this quality of being a very ordinary and that’s why I liked her. Nay, loved! In this movie, she was a doctor, working for CDC, putting herself at risk by being in the very front of the line against the deathly epidemic. Now, I may be stereotyping here, but imagine if Scarlett Johansson, or Jessica Alba in her shoes. Puff! The sense of realness in the situation is now gone. Not every working actors could tone down their natural charisma to become utterly ordinary and most of the actors in this movie, Matt Damon, Jude Law, and of course, Kate Winslet, are only few of those who can.
The movie concludes with brief scenes on “Day 0” and “Day 1” to provide a closure on how the disease came into being. But for me, it doesn’t matter anymore. Mr.Soderbergh and “Contagion” has achieved his intention of making me terrified with the danger of exposing ourselves to our surroundings. Our life expectancy as humans may be increasing over the years but I think, our dependence on the pharmaceutical industry may be dampening our self immunity. And as we introduced more and more sophisticated products that wasn’t intended by nature (i.e. synthetical meat, or many other meal products that in one way or another has been enhanced artificially) to ourselves, directly or otherwise, and so was our probability of “going down with a flu” increased. God’s forbid, it wasn’t an unordinary flu that attached itself to Beth Emhoff in this movie.
All in all, great drama slash thriller, great storytelling, and compelling characters. One of my best in the year 2011.