This is the kind of movie that Roland Emmerich keeps making, but done right. A mysterious illness spreads over the world at an alarming rate, killing millions. The film tells the story of a wide variety of people and how they respond to living in the worldwide epidemic. The bulk of the screen time is devoted to the doctors and scientists who work trying to isolate the disease and develop a vaccine. Each is a hero in his or her own way. But we also get Matt Damon as the husband of the first person to die of the disease as he tries to keep together what’s left of his family and stay alive. We also get Jude Law as a conspiracy theorist/blogger who tries to profit from the epidemic. There’s Marion Cotillard as a World Health Organization agent who is kidnaped and held for ransom so that a village will be the first to get the vaccine. Director Steven Soderbergh deftly weaves all these story threads together to tell a story of how the world might cope if faced with a similar crisis in real life. Each storyline is compelling in its own way and is believable every step of the way. Which makes the movie all the more chilling as I left the theater wondering if this could actually happen.
This movie can’t decide what kind of a movie it is. It starts with a series of real life people talking about journalist and communist John Reed and his girlfriend/lover/not wife Louise Bryant. Then we get Warren Beatty and Diane Keaton running around as Reed and Bryant, doing the things that the talking heads were just talking about. Then we get more talking heads. Then another dose of Beatty and Keaton. Just pick one: documentary or biopic. And at over three hours, the movie is interminably long. The filmmakers really needed to remove the talking heads (or even better, the Beatty and Keaton melodrama) to give the movie a more taut running time. Of course then I started to wonder what was the purpose of even having this movie at all. I disagreed with almost everything Reed said, and the relationship stuff was an unending cycle of fighting, moping, and making up.
Coming up next: Two movies about overgrown things.