WHAT PSYCHO DID for showers? What Jaws did for the ocean? Contagion does that for EVERY SINGLE THING YOU COULD POSSIBLY IMAGINE. Do you talk to people? Do you touch things? Do you go places, like "rooms" or "outside"? Do you eat or breathe? Because Contagion will ruin all of these things. It will turn you into one of those sad, lonely freaks who carries a little thing of Purell with them wherever they go, and whenever you touch or smell anything, or come within 20 feet of anyone, you will see your own corpse: Your dull, dark eyes; your pale, rubbery skin; your cold lips, crusty with snotty, dried-up froth.
There've been plenty of panicky thrillers about crazy diseases, but as far as I'm concerned, none of them have been as chilling as Contagion, a film that on one hand is a fun B-movie—it's basically Steven Soderbergh's riff on star-studded '70s disaster pics—and on the other is absolutely horrifying, because it turns out when Soderbergh decides to make a scary movie, he does just that. Enacted by an A-list cast—Matt Damon! Gwyneth Paltrow! Laurence Fisburne! Kate Winslet! Jude Law! Marion Cotillard! Demitri Martin, for some reason!—Soderbergh's apocalypse is jarringly convincing.
That's because just about everything that happens in Contagion seems perfectly reasonable: Of course coughy Gwyneth Paltrow, having run out of Glee songs, would inflict us with something even worse. Of course our governments would be slow in their response. Of course we would panic; of course we would turn on each other; of course everything would fall apart.
Contagion begins in darkness, with the only sound that of an ominous cough; by the time it's over, Soderbergh's disaster movie feels legitimately catastrophic. Because it could totally happen. Today, even. To you, probably. There are germs all over newspapers and keyboards. And chairs. And phones. Holy shit, do you even know what fetid bacteria farms phones are? All of us are fucked. I am going to bathe in Purell. I will never touch anything or anyone ever again.