Arleigh’s 13 Favorite Films of 2011


2011 was a year that wasn’t spectacular by any stretch of the imagination. From January right up to December there were not many films which I would consider event films. This is surprising considering all the superhero blockbusters which arrived during the summer and the final film in the Harry Potter film franchise. Even the prestige films which came out during the holidays never truly captured everyone’s imagination (though one film was very close to achieving it due to one Michael Fassbender).

What 2011 did have was a solid slate of titles which ranged from the pulpy to the cerebral. We even got films which were able to combine the two to come up with something very special. Not every film resonated with everyone and some even split audiences down the extreme middle with half hating it and the other half loving it.

The list below catalogs the films which I consider my favorites of 2011. Some titles on this list I consider some of the best of 2011 while some didn’t make that particular list but were entertaining enough for me to make this favorite list. Once again, the list is not ranked from top to bottom, but only numbered to keep things organized….

  1. Shame (dir. by Steve McQueen) – This character-driven film starring Michael Fassbender and Cary Mulligan was one of those film which got close to becoming the one film everyone ended up talking about as the year wound down. It’s an exercise in minimalist filmmaking as Steve McQueen doesn’t allow too much dialogue to get in the way of telling the visual story of sex-addict Brandon and his downward spiral from addiction to self-hate. Much have been said of how much Fassbender’s penis in full display was a reason why people flocked to see this little existential film, but I rather thought that was probably just a bonus for some and instead it was Fassbender’s uncompromising performance in the role of Brandon which made Shame one of my favorites for 2011.
  2. Rise of the Planet of the Apes (dir. by Rupert Wyatt) – this film was one which didn’t garner too much high-anticipation from genre fans leading up to it’s release. People had been burned by Tim Burton’s reboot of the franchise and saw this second attempt to reboot the series as a failure in the making. So, it was to o everyone’s surprise that Rupert Wyatt’s film managed to not just bring new life to a stagnating franchise but do so in such a way that it became one of the best films of 2011. Sure, there was some flaws in how the human character were written, but in the end it was the performance-capture work by Andy Serkis and the digital wizardry of WETA Digital which made Rise of the Planet of the Apes not just a wonderful and fun film this past summer, but also one which laid the groundwork for more stories in what is a franchise reborn with fresh blood and life.
  3. I Saw the Devil (dir. by Kim Ji-woon) – this little revenge thriller from South Korea was one which I happened to catch just before it left the theaters this part spring. It had played in one of the few arthouse theaters in the Bay Area that hadn’t closed down. I was glad to have seen this film on the big screen instead of on Netflix Instant the way most have seen it. It’s a brutal cat-and-mouse story of a South Korean secret agent who stalks and hunts the serial killer (played by Oldboy‘s Choi Min-sik) who kidnapped and brutally murdered his fiancee. The film is not for the timid and weak of stomach as we see through the eyes of not just Agent Soo-hyun (played by Lee Byung-hun) but that of serial killer Kyung-chul the dark corners of South Korea where hunter has become prey and vice versa.  South Korea has always been good for one great film that I feel personally attached to and for 2011 it was this film.
  4. Cave of the Forgotten Dreams (dir. by Werner Herzog) – I don’t think I could ever make a year’s favorite list of any year that had a Herzog release and not have it as a favorite of mine for the year. It happens that Herzog had two films come out in 2011 and both of them excellent documentaries. It would be his earlier documentary for 2011 that became a favorite of mine. It also happened to be his first (and according to him the only time) foray into 3D-filmmaking. Herzog makes great use of 3D filmmaking’s added epth of field to make the cave paintings in the Chauvet Cave come to life. If this was going to be Herzog’s only film shot in 3D then he made one for the ages and it’s a travesty that those who vote for documentaries to be nominated for the Academy Awards failed to even list this film.
  5. Attack the Block (dir. by Joe Cornish) – this scifi-action film from the UK became the darling for genre fans everywhere. It had everything which bigger-budgeted films of the same stripe failed to accomplish. It was fun, thrilling and, most important of all, had characters which the audience would get to know and care for. John Boyega as the gang leader and, ultimately, the reluctant savior of the block which has become under siege by an alien force is just one of the highlights of the film which boasts one of the best screenplays of 2011. Joe Cornish joins the likes of Neill Blomkamp as a filmmaker whose first feature-length film hits on all cylinders.
  6. Captain America: The First Avenger (dir. by Joe Johnston) – this film was to be the last leg of the Marvel Films before 2012’s highly-anticipated The Avengers film. It introduced the film’s title character and his origins for those not familiar with the name Captain America. This film could easily have been a throwaway one. A film to set-up this year’s The Avengers. Instead what we got was one of the most fun blockbusters in the summer of 2011. Joe Johnston goes back to his Rocketeer days and creates an action film that’s full of genuine nostalgia but not burdened by it. Any doubts fans might have had of Chris Evans in the role as Captain America had them wiped clean with his pitch-perfect performance as the title character. The film also had one of the most romantic relationships on-screen in quite awhile with Evan’s Steve Rogers and Hayley Atwell’s Peggy Carter.
  7. Drive (dir. by Nicolas Winding Refn) – In my opinion, Refn’s existential take on the pulp genre with Drive is also one of the best films of 2011, if not the best of them all. Refn, with Ryan Gosling in the role of  the Driver, has created a film that mashes up so many different genres and does it so well that it’s hard to be sympathetic to those who felt they were misled by the fim’s trailer that it would be a nonstop action film similar to Fast Five. The film is not an action film, but a film which just happens to have some action in it. Action that comes sudden and brutal and none of the whiz-bangs other action films rely heavily on. It’s another film where Refn explores duality of the male persona. It helps Refn’s film that Gosling is so great as the Driver that the film never slows down too much before things revs up once more. The rest of the ensemble cast also does stand-out work with Albert Brooks as an aging, cynical Hollywood gangster leading the pack.
  8. Fast Five (dir. by Justin Lin) – Speaking of Fast Five…this was a film that surprised me in so many ways. It’s the fifth installment in a series that seemed to have evolved from being an action series whose main goal was to highlight the street-racing community and the ridiculous lengths people in it would go to in order to trick out their cars. This latest installment in the franchise has put the street-racing aspect of the series on the back burner and instead has remade the franchise into an action-heist series that just happens to have fast cars in it. This film was loud, fast and fun and despite some major leaps in logic in the storyline it never stopped being entertaining. It also brought back Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson in an action film role that he had stopped doing these past five or so years.
  9. Hanna (dir. by Tom Hooper) – If someone had come to me and said that little Saoirse Ronan (The Lovely Bones, Atonement) would turn out to be kickass action-hero directed by a British filmmaker not known for action films then I would dismiss such a thing as crazy talk. But crazy talk it wasn’t and all that came to pass with Tom Hopper’s excellent modern fairy tale in Hanna. Ronan as the title character was asuch a find in a role that didn’t just need for her to act like the little lost babe in the woods, but to also turn on a dime and kick ass with the best of action heroes past. It helped that everyone else around her were up to the task of supporting her performance whether it was Eric Bana in the role father (huntsman in fable lore) to Cate Blanchett as the cold-hearted CIA chief (evil queen) whose connection to Hanna drives the film’s narrative from beginning to end.
  10. Kung Fu Panda 2 (dir. by Jennifer Yuh Nelson) – in a year where Pixar had one of it’s rare misses (Cars 2 really was awful and such a blatant cash grab for the studio) it was there for the taking for top animated film of the year for everyone else to fight over. There was Rango and there was The Adventures of TinTin, but my favorite animated film of 2011 has to be Kung Fu Panda 2. It continues to adventures of the Dragon Warrior and panda kung master Po and his compatriots, the Furious Five. With the first film having done with him becoming the Dragon Warrior, this sequel was free to explore more aspects of Po’s life and personality such as his true origins and the tragic circumstances which led him to be adopted by his noddle-making goose of a father. The film is much darker than the previous one with it’s storyline exploring such themes as genocide and the destructive march of technology over nature’s harmony. It also had one of the best villains to come out in 2011 with Gary Oldman as the evil peacock, Lord Shen. Plus, it had scenes of Po as a baby Panda…A BABY PANDA.
  11. Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy (dir. by Tomas Alfredson) – a feature-length film remake of the BBC miniseries of the same name (adapted from a John LeCarre novel), this spy thriller/procedural was Tomas Alfredson’s follow-up to his coming-of-age vampire film, Let the Right One In. Once again he has taken a well-worn genre and infused it with his own unique style of storytelling which valued characters and how they all interacted with each other over action and thrilling sequences. With a cast that’s a who’s who of British cinema the film was able to condense many hours of the miniseries into just a couple and still not lose the complex and layered plot involving political intrigue and betrayal. This film also had one of the best performances by any male actor for 2011 with Gary Oldman in the role of George Smiley. With Fassbender being passed over and not nominated for Best Actor for the upcoming Academy Awards I would be very perturbed if anyone else other than Oldman took home the statue.
  12. Kill List (dir. by Ben Wheatley) – I’m not well-versed on the work by Ben Wheatley so I saw this film on the recommendation of many whose opinions I trust when it comes to genre films. To say that I was thoroughly surprised by just how well this filmed turned out would be an understatement. Kill List is one of those films which turns so many horror and thriller conventions right on its head, but do so to serve the film’s narrative instead of a filmmaker trying to show his/her audience just how clever they can be. The film moves at a gradual pace that leads to a surprising ending that has split audiences down the middle. Some have loved the ending and other have hated it. I, for one, thought the ending was the only way the film could end. This was a film that was able to balance the different aspects of what makes a thriller and what makes a horror film. The moment when the film transitions from the former to the latter was so seamless that it takes several viewings to find just where it occurred. The best horror film of 2011, bar none.
  13. 13 Assassins (dir. by Miike Takashi) – many will be saying that I’m cheating with this final entry since the film was released in 2010. I would agree with them, but then again this film wasn’t released in the US until early 2011 so in my own honest opinion it qualifies as a 2011 film. This latest from Japan’s eclectic and prolific filmmaker, Miike Takashi, is his own take on the Japanese jidaigeki and a remake of the 1963 film of the same name. If there was ever a best action film of 2011 then this film would be it. Miike would pull back from his more over-the-top visuals (though he still manages to insert some very disturbing imagery early on in the film) for a much more linear and traditional action filmmaking. It’s a men-on-a-mission film that pits the 13 assassins of the title against 200 or more bodyguards of a sadistic lord who must be killed for the sake of the country. The first 45 minutes or so of the film shows the film gathering the assassins and planning their ambush. It’s that final hour or so of the film with it’s nonstop action which qualified this film not just one of my favorite for 2011, but that year’s best action film. No other film could even get to it’s level.

Honorable Mentions: Warrior, Super 8, Batman: Year One, Green Lantern: Emerald Knights, Sucker Punch, A Dangerous Method, The Adventures of TinTin, The Skin I Live In, Bunraku, The Guard, We Need to Talk About Kevin, Hugo, Tyrannosaur, Thor, The Interrupters, X-Men: First Class, Contagion, Battle: Los Angeles, Project Nim

What If Lisa Marie Was In Charge of the Golden Raspberry Awards


If you’re following the Awards ceremony, you know that two major events are coming up next week.  On Tuesday, the Oscar nominations will be announced.  But before that, on Monday, the Golden Raspberry Award nominations will be announced.  For 32 years, the Golden Raspberries have been honoring the worst films of the year and they’ve always served as a nice counterpoint to the self-congratulatory nature of the Academy Awards.

Now, on Monday night, I’ll be posting what I would nominate if I was in charge of the Oscars but first, I’d like to show you what I’d nominate if I was solely responsible for making the Golden Raspberry nominations.

Now before anyone leaves me any pissy comments, these are not predictions.  I know that these are not the actual nominations.  I know that the actual Golden Raspberry nominations will probably look a lot different.  These are just my individual picks.

(My “winners” are listed in bold print.)

Worst Picture

Anonymous

The Conspirator

Dylan Dog: Dead of Night

The Rum Diary

Straw Dogs

Worst Actor

Daniel Craig in Dream House, Cowboys and Aliens, and The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo

Aaron Eckhardt in Battle: Los Angeles

James Marsden in Straw Dogs

James McAvoy in The Conspirator

Brandon Routh in Dylan Dog: Dead of Night

Worst Actress

Kate Bosworth in Straw Dogs

Anita Briem in Dylan Dog: Dead of Night

Claire Foy in Season of the Witch

Brit Marling in Another Earth

Sara Paxton in Shark Night: 3-D

Worst Supporting Actor

Paul Giamatti in The Ides of March

Mel Gibson (as the Beaver) in The Beaver

Sir Derek Jacobi in Anonymous

Giovanni Ribisi in The Rum Diary

James Woods in Straw Dogs

Worst Supporting Actress

Jennifer Ehle in Contagion

Amber Heard in The Rum Diary

Willa Holland in Straw Dogs

Vanessa Redgrave in Anonymous

Oliva Wilde in Cowboys and Aliens

Worst Director

Roland Emmerich for Anonymous

Rod Lurie for Straw Dogs

Kevin Munroe for Dylan Dog: Dead of Night

Robert Redford for The Conspirator

Bruce Robinson for The Rum Diary

Worst Screenplay

Anonymous, written by John Orloff.

Another Earth, written by Mike Cahill and Brit Marling

The Beaver, written by Kyle Killen

Dylan Dog: Dead of Night, written by Thomas Dean Donnelly and Joshua Oppenheimer.

Straw Dogs, written by Rod Lurie.

(That’s right, it’s a tie.)

Worst Screen Couple 

Rhys Ifans and Joeley Richardson in Anonymous

Rhys Ifans and Vanessa Redgrave in Anonymous

Brit Marling and any breathing creature in Another Earth

Mel Gibson and The Beaver in The Beaver

James Marsden and Kate Bosworth in Straw Dogs

Worst Prequel, Sequel, or Remake

Arthur

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo

Scream 4

Straw Dogs

Transformers 3

Lisa Marie’s 16 Worst Films of 2011


 

Now that 2011 is finally over, we here at the Shattered Lens can finally get around to listing our individual picks for the best and worst of 2011.  Pantsukadasai, Necromoonyeti, Leon Th3 Duke, and Dazzling Erin have already posted some of their picks for the best of 2011 and over the next five days, I’ll be risking your scorn by listing some of my own choices.

I’d like to get things started today by listening my picks for the 16 worst films of 2011.  As always, these choices are mine and mine alone.  So, don’t go harassing Arleigh just because you think Another Earth wasn’t a pretentious and silly film.  Instead, harass me so I can harass you back. 🙂

16) Battle L.A. — It takes a special type of film to make Skyline look like a work of art.

15) Cowboys and Aliens — Meh.  This should have been so much more fun than it actually was.

14) Your Highness — I still love James Franco.

13)  Shark Night 3-D — Another film that should have been a lot more fun.

12) Season of the Witch — The first film I saw in 2011 was also one of the worst.

11) The Ides of March — Hey guys, did you know that politics is a dirty business!?  Oh my God, consider my fragile mind blown.  Thank you for clearing things up, George Clooney!

10) Another Earth — Honestly, Another Earth probably wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for the way that so many of the toadsuckers out there get so superior and condescending whenever they’re telling me that I should love this movie.  If you read the comments under my linked review of the film, you’ll find a very good defence of the film from Leon and then you’ll find a more typical response from some idiot named Naresh Raj Shrestha.  Unfortunately, Naresh seems to be a fair representation of most of the people who take to the Internet to defend this film.  All I can say to those people is “Fuck off, kids.  I’ve got real movies to worry about.”

9) Dream House — Daniel Craig.  Again.

8) Contagion — So.  Boring.

7) The Beaver — So. Stupid.

6) Priest — Yeah, yeah, it’s in 3-D.  Yay.

5) Dylan Dog: Dead of Night — This film sucks just as much as you think it does.

4) The Rum Diary — Is it possible to make a boring movie with one of the exciting movie stars in the world?  Apparently, it is.

3) The Conspirator — Self-important drivel that was released at least four years too late.

2) Straw Dogs — Tell ’em about the Southland, Rod Lurie!

And finally, here’s the worst film of 2011…

1) Anonymous — One thing is for sure.  Whoever wrote Shakespeare’s plays, he was a lot more talented than Roland Emmerich.

Coming up tomorrow: my ten favorite songs of 2011.

The Overrated Film of 2011: Lisa’s Take On Contagion (dir. by Stephen Soderbergh)


Both Leonard and Arleigh have already written detailed (and positive) reviews of Contagion so I’m going to keep my review short and simple. 

I say this with the greatest amount of respect for my fellow reviewers and to all of our readers who are probably going to vehemently disagree with me:

Contagion sucked.

Big time.

With this film, director Stephen Soderbergh takes material that is ripe for exploitation and histrionics and he presents it in a very clinical, low-key fashion and the result is a draggy film that takes itself way too seriously.  Seriously, if you’re going to end the world, have some fun with it.

Soderbergh assembles an impressive cast and then he pretty much just strands them out in the middle of nowhere.  I appreciate the fact that the director and the cast are trying to keep things rooted in reality but oh my God, the reality here is so boring.  Most of the cast does an okay job but Jennifer Ehle, who plays one of the scientists looking for a cure, gives such an annoyingly mannered performance that watching her was like listening to some little kid running around in squeaky shoes.  Seriously, if I had to hear one more artfully placed stammer from her, I was going to scream.

Finally, this is yet another film where the villain is a blogger.  I mean, he’s even English, that’s how evil Jude Law’s blogger is.  I mean, I’m sorry that all the old folks out there are so threatened by the Internet but this blogger-as-villain trend is just petty.

With its all-star cast and its pretensions towards being an  “important film,” Contagion should have been a fun, tawdry little romp.  It should have been like a 21st Century Airport or Towering Inferno.  Kate Winslet and Laurence Fishburne should have been having an adulterous affair.  2nd-rate television actors should have been dropping like flies.  There should have been melodramatic music and dialogue like, “Excuse me, did you say the nurse was conducting the operation?”

In short, Contagion should have been fun.

Unfortunately, it’s not.

Quick Review: Contagion (dir. by Steven Soderbergh)


Note that this isn’t the only review for Contagion.

Arleigh has an in-depth review of the film, which is also available to see, whereas this is more of a summary. As it’s for the same film, I’ve used the same tags that were in Arleigh’s post.

Before I start, I have to say that I haven’t had a theatre be so quiet during a film since I went to see Mirrors, and that was because there was no one there. My showing for Contagion was packed, but no one made a sound throughout the film. I coughed twice (because I had to), and you wouldn’t believe how many heads turned in my general direction. If nothing else, it shows that the movie had some impact to the audience, and that’s always (okay, usually) interesting to see. By the time the movie is over, you will probably pay attention to how many times you touch your face or the objects around you.

If there’s one thing I can give director Steven Soderbergh, it’s that he has a great ability to work with ensemble casts. He did a great job in getting everyone to work together on the Oceans Eleven remake and sequels. He also walked away with a Best Director Oscar for Traffic. His films have the ability to avoid having his stars chew up enough screen time that they appear to be an actual center character. Catherine Zeta-Jones’ had a character who’s story was just as strong as Benecio Del Toro’s.

On this, Contagion is no different. In essence, it’s almost like watching cameos in a miniseries.

Although the film is peppered with various actors, no one person can be considered the main character of the film. Soderbergh is able to get them all to play their roles well. He and Scott Z. Burns – one of the writers on The Bourne Ultimatum and a collaborator with Soderbergh – give us a number of perspectives for this story and damn, the whole thing is very tight overall. The movie has very little wasted space.

Like the story itself, the movie moves at a great pace, opening with Elizabeth Emhoff (Gwenyth Paltrow) on her second day after exposure to the virus after returning from a trip to Hong Kong. This eventually escalates to other infections reported in other areas around the world. In an effort to contain and understand what they’re dealing with, the Center for Disease Control starts an investigation. Lead by Dr. Ellis Cheever (Lawrence Fishburne), he sends Dr. Erin Mears (Kate Winslet) to Minnesota to determine the scale of the problem.

In addition to the CDC’s efforts, the World Health Organization also gets involved, sending their own field agent to Hong Kong, played by Marion Cotillard. Both doctors come up with information that appear to be helpful for the overall investigation in various ways.

The other two angles in the film are through a conspiracy theory blogger / investigative reporter played by Jude Law and Mitch Emhoff (Matt Damon), who has to deal with the impact of his wife’s sickness. Enrico Colantoni, Brian Cranston, Sanaa Lathan, Elliot Gould and Jennifer Ehle round out the cast. It should be noted that Ehle is the daughter of Kenneth Branaugh’s Hamlet actress Rosemary Harris, who looks remarkably like her mother. That’s just something that caught my eye.

In terms of the Kid Factor, I would be hesitant to take kids to see this unless they had a pretty clear handle on death or getting sick. Teens and adults could probably handle the film, but anyone under than that may freak out a little. Mind you, there’s very little gore in this film. When I think about it, there’s not even a whole lot of blood. There is some violence though as the story escalates and humanity goes wild, but it’s not that far a cry from many zombie movies. It’s up to the parents discretion on whether their kids should see this.

I should also point out that the music in this film is also very good. Cliff Martinez, who also worked on the score for Drive (also out this month) did an impressive job with an electronic score that sits in the background of the film, but also fits the pacing of the film well. It’s worth giving it a listen if at all possible. This quick review was actually written to the Contagion score.

Contagion is definitely worth seeing, easily recommended, but if you happen to be particular about germs, note that this may not be the most comfortable film to watch. Don’t be shocked if you end up hugging yourself while watching this in the theatre. With Soderbergh moving away from film directing to pursue other interests, Contagion is a nice final bow to his career.

Review: Contagion (dir. by Steven Soderbergh)


In a world where almost every season news media both traditional and on-line warn the population of what could be an outbreak of a new super-virus that could cause a new pandemic similar to the Spanish Flu of 1918. This was a pandemic which occurred before transcontinental travel was the norm and the virus still managed to kill 1% of the world’s population. Now, it’s 2011 and with warnings of swine flu, bird flu, Ebola, SARS and any number of infectious diseases still in the public’s consciousness we get a new film from filmmaker Steven Soderbergh which seriously explores a world discovering a new deadly disease and how the world responds and deals with the crisis.

Contagion begins with a simple “Day 2” caption as we see one Beth Emhoff (Gwyneth Paltrow) awaiting her flight to board in O’Hare at Chicago. There’s a bit of character building about this character who we see as already in the early stages of what looks to be the flu. From there Soderbergh does an interesting bit where he lets the camera linger for just a split second longer whenever Beth touches something. Soderbergh does this many times that the audience will soon get used to it and forget the significance of the act. We see Beth get a ride home from a colleague back to her home where she’s welcomed home by her husband Mitch and her young son Clark who runs to her and gives her a big hug.

The story really hits the ground running as Beth and soon those she has come into contact with begin to show similar symptoms and quickly die. The CDC and it’s head administrator, Dr. Ellis Cheever (Laurence Fishburne), soon begin to see a pattern to the deaths and the similarity to their symptoms. We soon see another aspect of the story begin with the arrival of Dr. Erin Mears whose job is to investigate the circumstance which seems to be leading into a cluster case starting with Beth and the area she lives in.

The third aspect of this film throws in internet news blogger Alan Krumwiede (Jude Law) who begins to suspect that several deaths around the world looks to be interconnected in someway and that the government, the CDC and the WHO (World Health Organization) are trying to hide these disturbing facts from the general public. Krumwiede becomes the purveyor of unfiltered news which seems to do more harm than good as more and more people begin to believe his conspiracy theories about what looks to be a growing global pandemic cause by an unknown virus every expert brought in to help cannot seem to figure out.

Let me just first say that to call Contagion a thriller in the traditional sense would be flimsy at best. Soderbergh and the film’s writer, Scott Z. Burns, have made a thriller but in a sense that it skews heavily on using realism and an almost docudrama style to push the film’s narrative. The thriller aspect comes from the notion that this film’s plot is not far off from actually becoming a real event. There’s no usage of dramatic tropes from past disaster and apocalyptic films to manipulate the audience. The film as a thriller would be quite mundane when stacked up against films like Outbreak and The Andromeda Strain. It’s the realness of the story, the events taking place on the screen which gives the film it’s dramatic heft.

We begin to see what Soderbergh is trying to accomplish with this film. How transcontinental travel which took weeks during the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic now can spread a highly infectious disease in a manner of less than a day’s plane flight over one ocean. The film shows in disturbing detail just how easily we as a people can spread a disease just by doing the most innocuous thing like absently touching one’s face many times a minute then transferring whatever we had to any surface we touch. Contagion definitely will add to the paranoia of those who already have an unhealthy habit of disinfecting everything before they even touch it.

The film doesn’t just touch upon the medical side of solving the growing crisis, but also explores how the governmental response and sociological reaction to the epidemic. For the former we see how protocols and the need to slowly disseminate information to the public only adds to the public’s mistrust of the very agencies created to help them in case of such an event. Soderbergh doesn’t condemn or praise these agencies for their bureaucracy. We see the reason why places like the CDC take their time to finally inform the public as we get the unfiltered and manipulative news blog side of the news media in the form of Krumwiede’s blog. While he does dare to ask the questions other more traditional news organizations fail to ask he also becomes too enamored with how many people read his blog that he’s willing to manipulate the news itself in order to gain more followers.

Contagion hits the second half of the film with the world in full crisis mode and the film taking on a more apocalyptic tone. We see streets in San Francisco full of garbage bags as agencies who used to pick them up have either gone on strike or have stopped their daily runs in fear of infection. Then there are the riots at pharmacies and stores as interstate commerce grounds to a halt and no new supplies of goods and sundries make it to stores. Society itself begin to devolve as everyone and every group start to look after their own and begin to turn on others for the dwindling supplies.

It’s here in the second half that we see the film take on some of the more traditional aspects of a thriller, but even here Soderbergh doesn’t seem to want to linger on the more sensational side of the story. He continues, for good or ill, on the narrative style he began with and that’s to see the epidemic from beginning to conclusion in as clinical a manner as possible. It’s for this reason that at times the more intimate and personal side of the film’s story involving the Emhoff family seemed like it was from a different film. The Emhoff’s end up becoming the heart of the film, but it’s this emotional center that never seemed to fit with the sterile and cold narrative style Soderbergh chose to tell the film’s story.

The performances by the star-studded cast was quite good, but no one person really stood out. If I had to choose one it would have to be Kate Winslet’s Dr. Mears who goes out into the field early in the crisis investigating the early stages of the epidemic. We see her frustration at having to deal with local governmental agencies who fear the hit a quarantine would put on local economies (as if people dying in droves wouldn’t be a bigger hit) and the very danger of contracting the disease itself since having no knowledge of how it works she must use means of protection that may or may not protect her. While her story-arc in the film was just one of several it was her’s which really showed a major impact at how impersonal can be and how no one is truly safe.

Contagion is a film that tells a story about the possibility of such an event occurring and does it well, if not in a very clinical way, but it also shows just how unprepared we truly are when it comes to the smallest of creatures who sees us as nothing more than living forms of intercontinental travel. It’s exploration of such a global crisis in all it’s aspects (medical, research, governmental, media and sociological) makes it seem more like a docudrama more at home in the Discovery Channel, The Science Channel and the like instead of a cinema multiplex. It’s all due to Soderbergh’s storytelling skills that he’s able to pull off such a non-traditional thriller and make people more afraid about their surroundings coming out of the film than they were going into it. It’s not one of Soderbergh’s best films, but it’s a strong offering from him and one of the better films to come out in 2011.

Poll: Which Films Are You Most Looking Forward To Seeing In October?


Last month, at this time, we asked you which films you were most looking forward to seeing in September.  The results are in and it would appear that September is going to be all about Drive, Contagion, Moneyball, and Warrior for most of our readers.   Thank you to everyone who voted.

Below, you’ll find the poll for October. Let us know which October films you’re most looking forward to seeing.  As always, please feel free to vote for up to four films.

(As for me, I voted for The Rum Diary, Footloose, In Time, and The Skin I Live In.)