Contagion Blu-ray Review
Contagion comes to Region Free UK Blu-ray complete with a 1080p High Definition video presentation in the movie’s original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1 widescreen. With a fairly modest budget and a style that definitely veers in the distinct direction of docu-drama, this is a film intent on looking realistic as opposed to glossy. The presentation itself expertly renders this visual impression with every anaemically pale face, sterile lab, virus-ravaged locale and overcrowded triage unit coming across accurately and realistically. Detail is excellent throughout, with fine object detail and superior clarity even on the wider shots. There’s no sign of any edge enhancement or any unruly DNR, and there’s a suitably filmic layer of grain-like noise running throughout which seldom feels excessive or unintentional. The colour scheme perfectly captures the bleak settings, boasting scant few brighter, more vibrant tones in amidst the drab, often dirty elements which pervade the piece. Black levels don’t break any records, and the contrast can be quite variable, but that feels largely a result of the original style of the film and not the presentation. All in all, it’s a solid video rendition which is far from demo quality but which certainly does justice to the material on offer.
The accompanying DTS-HD track is arguably slightly more impressive. Dialogue gets clear and coherent presentation, largely dominating the frontal array for the most part. It’s certainly a dialogue-driven affair, although there’s some keen observance of the atmospherics-driven effects elements, as well as an absolutely tremendous score from Cliff “Drive” Martinez, who has partnered with Soderbergh on numerous previous occasions, and comes out with a stomping mechanical score this time around which drills its way in and out of your psyche as you’re absorbing the chaos. There isn’t a huge amount of directionality, although a couple of helicopter flyovers attempt to prove otherwise. And that doesn’t mean that we don’t get some heady pandemic-stricken atmosphere in quite a few different scenes, with bustling crowds often going wild, and the authorities shouting and attempting to keep order – more than enough to bring the surrounds to life. Whilst it’s not a perfect track, it is a perfect representation of Soderbergh’s low-key production, and, largely thanks to the superb score, it just about edges into demo quality territory.
In terms of extras, just three Featurettes grace this disc, all of which are fairly short. Still, they are pretty information-packed, and they leave this package a far cry from a vanilla release.
The Reality of Contagion – Matt Damon, Gwyneth Paltrow, Jude Law, Lawrence Fishburne and Bryan Cranston, along with medical journalist Sanjay Gupta, explore the real science of global viruses and what they mean to the human race. The world is preparing for the next biological disaster... but is it too late?
This 11-minute Featurette takes a fast-paced approach to delivering stats and information relating to the real-life threats of a pandemic; the ensuing potential for millions of lives to be lost; the advances in science still having to combat advanced viruses; the scientists and doctors who would face the disease head-on; and the damage that a rampant media and panicking public could have on the spread of a virus.
The Contagion Detectives – Meet the greatest minds in the world and see how they helped prepare Matt Damon, Lawrence Fishburne, Kate Winslet, Jude Law and the rest of the cast for the fight against deadly viruses.
A 5-minute accompanying Featurette has a whole host of experts – including CDC scientists, doctors and even a few journalists – reflecting on the threat that a pandemic could pose.
Contagion: How a Virus Changes the World
Just a 2-minute quickie which charts the life path of a deadly virus in modern society; it would be entertainingly amusing if it weren’t for the shocking ease in which it spreads.
Proving once again just how adept he is at tackling pretty-much any genre he turns his hand to – from psychological sci-fi drama (Solaris) to heist caper (The Ocean’s Trilogy) to action thriller (Haywire) to class-action legal drama (Erin Brokovich) to biopic (Che) – director Steven Soderbergh now brings us his own take on the viral outbreak disaster movie, complete with all the docu-drama stylisation and multi-stranded narrative arcs that you would expect from the acclaimed filmmaker. Using the hyperlink approach he previously found so much success with in Traffic, here we get a half a dozen stories all rolled into one tale of the spread of a deadly virus which goes from one poorly, infected housewife to an all-out pandemic in a matter of days. It is undeniably competent storytelling, but just that little bit too true-to-life to make for a thoroughly exciting thriller. Still, if you want a lesson in the unseen horrors beneath our very fingertips, and a look at what could happen if we faced another pandemic, then this is a solid bet on how things might turn out – although hopefully we’ll never find out for sure.
On Region Free UK Blu-ray we get very good video and pretty impressive audio, and whilst there are only a couple of extras included on the disc they are perfectly in-line with the main feature and cram a hefty amount of information into their brief total runtime. Those who enjoyed the film should be perfectly happy with this release; fans of disaster movies – who are prepared for a more realistic one than they might be used to – will likely find this worth a blind buy, or at least worth putting at the top of the rental list; and newcomers should certainly consider it worth checking out, even if it might not have a guaranteed place in their collection.
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