Contagion Study Guide

Steven Soderbergh's 2011 film Contagion tells the frightening story of a deadly pandemic. It is an ensemble film that examines the disaster from multiple angles, as different characters grapple with the effects of the pandemic in their personal and professional lives. The film stars Matt Damon, Laurence Fishburne, Marion Cotillard, and Kate Winslet.

After an American woman, Beth Emhoff, falls ill and dies after returning home from a work trip to Hong Kong, the world is thrown into a panic about the deadly virus. The film follows representatives from the CDC and WHO as they scramble to keep people safe and develop a vaccine. It also looks more minutely at the people Beth left behind: her husband Mitch and their daughter. In representing the events from multiple perspectives, Soderbergh shows the suspenseful personal, geopolitical, and scientific repercussions of the disease, and the fragile web that links people from across the globe.

When it was released, Contagion was critically and financially successful. Peter Bradshaw of The Guardian wrote that "[This] all-star disaster-movie genre is taken out of the 1970s and given a stylish and largely persuasive 21st century makeover by director and cinematographer Steven Soderbergh." On a budget of $60 million, the film made back $135.5 million at the box office. In fact, scientists lauded the film for its extremely accurate portrayal of a worldwide pandemic. In 2020, Contagion once again became popular due to its relevance to the COVID-19 pandemic, becoming the 10th-most rented film on iTunes.