Steven Soderbergh’s curiously uninvolving viral plague roundelay gets off to a great start, confirming a long-held suspicion that Gwyneth Paltrow would somehow or other eventually be responsible for infecting the world with a fatal disease. After that, the film plays out as an all-star race between cough & contact; rumor & riot; science & sanity. Structurally, it’s force-fed to us in a manner familiar from the ricocheting interpersonal plots of tricked-up scripts like BABEL/’06, CRASH/’05 or AMORES PERROS/’00. How odd that Soderbergh, working off Scott Z. Burns’ script, with more story justification for billiard ball dramatics, winds up with something that feels, if anything, more contrived. Maybe the format is simply inadequate to the immense social dynamic . . . or maybe it’s simply a matter of timing, with Soderbergh’s coming too late to the party. So, while the film is immaculately made, thoughtful & timely, suspenseful, and occasionally touching, it comes & goes without leaving a trace. Like one of those harmless viruses we never take note of.
DOUBLE-BILL: Wolfgang Petersen’s OUTBREAK/’95 turns a similar story into Pop Schlock, but who could forget Dustin Hoffman in his ‘Bio-Hazard suit’ glory, looking like Presidential candidate Michael Dukakis in that tank helmet.
SCREWY THOUGHT OF THE DAY: Was it really necessary to give Jude Law bad teeth to go with his bad ethics?