Contagion is a 2011 film about a worldwide pandemic. Sound familiar?
10 out of 10 stars. This film follows a business executive’s deadly viral infection as she infects 6 other people who lead it back to their communities, resulting in a worldwide pandemic.
On a business trip to Hong Kong, Beth Emhoff eats cooked pork tainted with a swine-bat virus. 1. She infects a waiter who touches her glass, who infects his mom and neighbors. His mom then infects their entire province in China. This one interaction results in a pandemic in both Hong Kong and the Guondang Province in China. 2. She next infects a Japanese businessman also visiting Hong Kong who sits next to her at a gambling table. He returns home infecting everyone on the plane and in Japan. 3. As she’s leaving the gambling/bar area she loans her phone to a Ukrainian model who lives in London. That model flies home and infects everyone on the plane at at her photo shoot the next day which ends up spreading across London. 4. Beth flies to the U.S. and has a layover in Chicago (she lives in Minneapolis) so she can see her secret lover (her old boyfriend), John Neil. She infects the people on the plane, John, his family, and the people at the hotel which spreads to all of Chicago. 5. At home in Minneapolis, she is picked up at the airport by Aaron Barnes, a coworker with papers for her to sign. She infects him and he infects everyone on his bus and at the bus stop. He also infects a CDC worker who dies days later. 6. Beth goes home and infects her six year old son Clark who infects the kids at his school and their families. Fortunately, her husband is immune.
Although they say in the film that the R naught (R-0) number for this virus is 2, this would suggest it is at least 6. That’s the rate of transmission and 6 is very high.
Beth dies of encephalitis and when the coroner performs an autopsy, he immediately calls CDC (the Centers for Disease Control). The virologists at the CDC quickly determine that the virus is a combination strain from both swine flu and bat flu that attacks the respiratory system and central nervous system. The mortality rate is 1%, but because Beth infected so many people and it went global so quickly, it becomes a worldwide pandemic that kills millions just like the Spanish flu.
The film follows several key people:
- Dr. Sussman in San Francisco who defies the CDC’s order to burn his samples and is able to grow the virus in a lab so they can invent a vaccine.
- A Hong Kong cultural affairs officer from Guandong Province of China who kidnaps the WHO (World Health Organization) doctor sent to investigate their cases. He holds her ransom for weeks in exchange for the first vaccines.
- Dr. Meers, a new CDC doctor sent to Minneapolis to investigate their cases. She contracts the virus and dies, but it shows the battles she has the local level with city council bureaucrats who don’t want to pay for a quarantine and enable the virus to spread across the city.
- Beth’s family as they struggle with a funeral parlor that refuses to accept the bodies and bury them, as well as local looting, infected people around every corner, and losing two loved ones (Beth and Clark) in a single day. Beth’s husband Mitch is immune but using serum from immune people apparently was too expensive for the CDC to use that in a vaccine. Which begs the question–who makes that decision?
- Dr. Cheever, the CDC doctor in charge who warns his wife to leave Chicago. She tells a friend and her friend tells everyone. It goes public, creating a panic, and threatens Cheever’s job as well as criminal charges.
- Alan Krumwiede, an unethical blogger in San Francisco who pretends to be sick with the virus and cures himself with a drug called Forsythia (in which he owns major shares of stock). He’s eventually arrested, but not before he kills thousands of people with his lies.
- Dr. Hextall, a CDC doctor who invents a vaccine and tests it on herself rather than waiting for human trials.
10 out of 10 stars. This is a terrifying film that shows how quickly a deadly virus can spread when illiterate and misinformed people spread the virus so recklessly. And it’s even more distressing to see the pharmaceutical companies using it as a way to get rich.