this movie will convert thousands to the ranks of the germophobes. As fast as
you can say, “Bats on pigs.”
Paltrow, always eminently watchable, plays the innocent who is among the first
to contract the disease. She’s in
time she finally returns home to her loving husband, played by Matt Damon, she
is already coughing. Soon she is nauseous. Next she starts to feel numbness is
in her hands and feet, and then she faints. Soon comes the convulsions and the
foaming at the mouth. It won’t be long now.
Winslett plays the doctor at the disease control center, the one who’s
supposed to come in and find out what happened, isolate the cause, develop a
vaccine, and save the world. The problem is, she’s not immune herself, and her
constant exposure leaves her just as vulnerable as everyone else.
for his part, seems to be immune, but nobody knows why. Researchers are
furiously working on various vaccines to attempt on rhesus monkeys, but the
trials, in order to be scientifically verified, cannot be rushed. Meanwhile, as
the contagion spreads, panic sets in.
the most realistic and harrowing part of the film. Those who are sick suffer
briefly with the knowledge of their imminent and inevitable demise, but it’s
soon over for them. As for the rest, well, they get to live in perpetual fear of
catching the dread disease. And they get to witness the false rumors of miracle
cures (naturally, something homeopathic). There’s a run on canned food,
bottled water, batteries, and dry goods, and as soon as the supplies run short
people just start taking from each other. Then everyone goes home trying to
protect themselves and their property, including the police, fire department,
paramedics, and hospital workers. And so the chaos begins to descend. There’s
trash all over the streets because nobody’s picking it up. There are mass
graves with bodies deposited by bulldozer because no mortician wants to, well,
undertake the task. Can anarchy be far behind?
wait, this isn’t “The Road,” and there isn’t a pall of despair over the
whole earth, as in Cormac McCarthy’s classic rendition of instant descent to
the Dark Ages. No, there’s more optimism here, about human ingenuity that will
overcome the selfishness, and people still committing random acts of love
because they’re so winsomely inconsistent.
doesn’t really concentrate on the horrors of millions of people perishing
almost instantly, feeling that a few personal demonstrations will suffice, and
the rest can be reported by the ubiquitous reporters. Since this is Hollywood,
the gadfly is a blogger, a man who is able to spread rumors online without
credentials or verification, and nobody can really stop him, because he’s so
confident in his false bravado that’s he managed to convince himself of his
own indispensability. Jude Law is a good enough actor to pull off this role
without seeming to be too self-consciously ironic, though the implied criticism
does a very good job of building the suspense, but falls a little flat while
releasing it. Since it won’t settle for cheesy invincibility (some big stars
really die in this one), it can’t manage triumphant, either. So it’s not as
much as a crowd-pleaser as it might have been, because there’s no humor, and
no real romance, either.
But it does, at least, tell us at
the end how it all began, and that full circle will have to provide enough sense
of completion. Bats and pigs, indeed.
Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, Interim
Pastor, St. Stephen’s Presbyterian Church, Irving