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Movies: Past, present and future

Category: Contagion

'Contagion': critics test positive

September 9, 2011 |  4:35 pm

Contagion
"Contagion," the new viral thriller from director Steven Soderburgh, has garnered a healthy dose of buzz with its bold, "Psycho"-like dispatching of star Gwyneth Paltrow's character in the movie's opening minutes (as shown in the trailer). The film, written by Scott Z. Burns and featuring an ensemble cast (including Matt Damon, Jude Law, Marion Cotillard) ventures into grim territory from there. And while any movie with such a staggering toll is unlikely to be beloved, exactly, critics do seem to agree that "Contagion" is compelling stuff.

The Times' Kenneth Turan says the film "tells a story for our time, a story of raging menace and out of control fear. It offers us thirty-something days in the life of a global pandemic, a lethal virus that travels like the wind and kills without a trace of mercy. This may not fit any conventional definition of entertainment, but it certainly keeps your eyes on the screen."

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At Venice, is 'Contagion' following 'The Town's' awards playbook?

August 31, 2011 |  3:19 pm

Anna Jacoby-Herron and Matt Damon in Steven Soderbergh's virus drama Contagion

When Warner Bros. Pictures premieres Steven Soderbergh's globe-trotting virus drama "Contagion" Sunday at the Venice Film Festival, it will be launching a campaign for a movie that shares many attributes with the studio's hit from fall 2010: Ben Affleck's "The Town," which also made its debut at the starry European fest.

Despite very different subject matters, "The Town" (starring Affleck and Jeremy Renner) and "Contagion" are both accessible dramas with strong ensemble casts. Plus, "Contagion" (which stars Matt Damon, Gwyneth Paltrow and Kate Winslet, among others) also boasts that critical quality of certain fall releases: strong commercial appeal mixed with potential awards support.

Warner Bros. worldwide president of marketing Sue Kroll sees the similarities between the two films.

“They are similar in that they both have popular appeal, a great mix of cast and a very accessible subject matter told in a really wonderful, interesting way. They are incredibly well-crafted, well-acted, well-directed films but they can broaden out and may end up reaching a much wider audience,” Kroll says.

"Contagion" needs a strong commercial bow before it can be considered an Oscar candidate, and with its stateside opening set for Sept. 9, Venice serves as a strategic launching pad worldwide for the movie. "The Town" opened in the U.S. last Sept. 17 and grossed $154 million worldwide, and Warner Bros. ran a concerted Oscar campaign for the film. The picture missed the cut for the 10 best picture nominees, but Renner was nominated in the best supporting actor category.

"Contagion" has a chance for even greater box office success, considering the film features a much larger geographic scope and a cast with more international stars, including Marion Cotillard, Jude Law and Chin Han.

Plus, who doesn't love a good pandemic?

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Photos: Scene at the 2011 Venice Film Festival

Matt Damon: Steven Soderbergh really does plan to retire from film

-- Nicole Sperling

Photo: Matt Damon and Anna Jacoby-Herron in a scene in "Contagion." Credit: Claudette Barius / Reuters


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