3 June 2013

Never Eat Stale Crisps

Generally, I don't get sick. I got ill the other week because I ate some out-of-date Pringles but I suppose that was my own fault. They may have been a little on the mouldy side but I was hungry and as lore dictates, once you pop you just can't stop. In a fit of joy, my immune system got overexcited about finally having something to do and within a few hours I was joylessly puking up a watery-crispy combo. Sadly, this left the rest of my body open to invasion and resulted in further illness. I think what basically happened was similar to The Dark Knight Rises where Gordon gets carried away and sends every cop into the sewers after Bane leaving the rest of Gotham completely defenceless. Whilst the Battle of Pringle-itis was being fought in my gut, a crafty little virus snuck in and gave me a mini-cold. As a result, I spent several days lying around the house whilst wrapped in blankets and snorting Lemsip. To be honest, I wasn't even feeling that bad but I like the attention and only twats takes risks.

Having thankfully now recovered from my rapping upon death's door, I felt an urge to watch Steven Soderbergh's cough-athon Contagion. The film depicts a way in which the world would react if everyone developed some sort of bat-AIDs and then started smearing our hands into each others mouths. As it turns out, when infected with this mysterious illness, not only do we have a nasty habit of dropping down dead but our society has a bit of a mental breakdown too. Whilst half of the population is cancelling appointments to focus on dying, the other half goes into panic mode and starts smashing shit up. Having said that I can empathise with them as the film did a good job of tapping into my paranoias and ruining my actual life. Now that I've seen Contagion, I think I'd seriously be prepared to mutilate and maim anybody who even dares to cough in front of me. By failing to offer a range of gas masks, rubber gloves and shotguns, the film really missed out on an amazing opportunity to profit through merchandise.

"Come up to meet you- tell you I'm sorry.
You don't know how lovely you are."

The movie itself is very much an ensemble piece with each character providing a small segment of a much broader story. It does this however with a large number of A-list actors and kind of hints towards the virus being particularly drawn towards Oscar winners. There's a scene near the beginning in which Gwyneth Paltrow is found frothing on the bathroom floor because she's feeling a little ill. Although considering who she is, the initial assumption is that she's finally got around to listening to a Coldplay album. If anybody comes close to being a main character, I suppose it could be argued that it's Laurence Fishburne who seems to be in charge of dealing with this situation. I'm not sure how he managed to get this job but I was so hoping for a final scene in which he offers people a cure in the form of either a red or blue pill.

The problem with having this many short stories starring popular actors is that inevitably somebody will be neglected. In Contagion's case, it is Marion Cotillard who seems the most ignored with the film introducing her at the start and forgetting about her until the very end. If there's one thing that Inception's Cobb managed to teach us it's that with her memorably nice face and general Frenchy Frenchness, Cotillard is not easily forgotten about. Contagion also claims to feature Bryan Cranston but if you even consider blinking, you really will miss him. As a huge fan of his I would say that this films biggest flaw is how little he's actually in it. Although I think that about Breaking Bad and in that, he's in pretty much every fucking scene. Basically, a good rule-of-thumb is that the biggest fault of any film to either star or not star Bryan Cranston is simply how little he's in it. Actually, speaking of Breaking Bad, although I mention it because I'm an obsessed fan and can't help myself, it does go to show just how good TV is these days. Although Contagion does work great as a film, occasionally it does offer hints that it may have worked even better as a mini-series. As much as I like seeing the annihilation of our species highlighted into two hours, I'm always up for watching the suffering dragged out over six hourly episodes as well.

Although Contagion really grounds itself in reality, it's interesting to see just how much of what it has to say has been borrowed from George Romero's 1973 cult horror, The Crazies. Both films tell the story of a mysterious virus wiping out humanity and both show the hysterical public twattery that accompanies it. I suppose other than the quantity of cheap orange blood however, the main difference between the two is in how they depict those in charge. With The Crazies, the Government seems to be in a suspiciously murderous mood whereas in Contagion, we as the audience can see that there is nothing more sinister going on than incompetence. In fact, Contagion's only real baddie is probably Jude Law who plays a snaggle-toothed Aussie blogger selling what he claims to be a cure. Although I enjoyed his character and story, the Dundee accent and comical front gnasher did push his character a little too close to pantomime territory. In fact, with his voice how it is, they missed a real trick by not having him just blend up a Fosters with some Kangaroo bollocks and saying, “You think that's a cure? This is a cure!”. For anybody aware of the line between making a stereotype joke and casual racism then you're very much a better person than I.

Despite not quite being a horror film, Contagion may be the closest Soderbergh has come to trying to scare us. Well, unless you count that horrific moment after Oceans 12 ends and you realise that you'd paid money to see that shit. However, most of the chills here don't come from scary monsters or creepy Saville-esque weirdos but instead by simply making the film as real as possible. In between all the stories about celebrity paedophiles, the news is full of reports of SARS, BSE, Swine flu, Bird flu and all the other psychotic bugs out there trying to murder us. All that this film does is have one of those virus's breakout and then shows the logical path that it would take. If anything though, this film is just another demonstration of Soderbergh's range. Despite being quite a slow paced chiller, his next film was the action packed Haywire which featured a small woman kicking the crap out of anyone with a gun or a dick. In fact one of my main reasons for buying this movie was to catch up on my Soderbergh collection having just watched and loved his epic Che films. After four hours of witnessing one of the most famous faces ever attempt a revolution, my friend cheered only once and it was when Guevara punched a horse right in the face. For fans of either good films or animal cruelty, I strongly recommend.

"You're missing the one who knocks..."
Anyway despite its lack of Bryan Cranston, Contagion is still a really good movie. If its job was to make you paranoid about making contact with any surface whatsoever, then it should be considered a success. It'll ruin your sense of touch in the same way that Jaws ruined a quiet seaside swim and The Human Centipede ruined the whimsy of stitching your mouth to a stranger’s arsehole. After the movie finished, I declared with genuine sincerity that I would never touch my own face again. Although, this was a point only slightly undermined by the fact that I was apparently touching my face as I said it. I think I've mentioned it in this blog somewhere before but there was once a time when I was working in a supermarket that a customer went to hand me her change before sneezing all over it. At the time, I looked at her with pure hatred and accepted the money for fear of losing my job. Having now seen Contagion, I think I'd probably glass her throat and then quarantine the whole shop. In fact, after she did that, I got ill and I think that was the last time I was sick before being recently consumed by Pringle-itis. I'm not sure what the morale of this story is but I guess it backs up Contagion’s message that we should all avoid each other at all costs. I do recommend this film but only if you're prepared to board up your windows, weld your door shut and ignore society for the rest of your life. Luckily these were precautions that I was already more than willing to make.

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