After nearly a year of mounting anticipation, Steven Soderbergh’s psychological thriller, Contagion, will be released nationwide in a mere four weeks. The film will screen out of competition at the Venice Film Festival, which begins Aug. 31, before premiering in theaters and IMAX screens Sept. 9.
As evidenced in the film’s chilling trailer, Contagion takes the form of a globe-hopping ensemble piece featuring an all-star cast in a variety of locations such as Hong Kong, Abu Dhabi, London and Chicago.
Evanston was among the Illinois locations last November. Residents gathered in a field where there was a helicopter drop of survival supplies.
One of the film’s primary draws for audiences will be its array of A-list actors including Matt Damon, Marion Cotillard, Gwyneth Paltrow, Kate Winslet, Jude Law, Laurence Fishburne, John Hawkes, Sanaa Lathan, Elliot Gould, Demetri Martin and Breaking Bad star Bryan Cranston. Yet the film’s downbeat subject matter may be a tough sell for audiences, particularly since the film will open on the 10th anniversary weekend of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
The script by Scott Z. Burns (producer of An Inconvenient Truth) centers on a deadly virus that threatens to become a global pandemic. Though Soderbergh often shifts between directing blockbusters like Ocean’s 13 and low-budget fare like The Girlfriend Experience, Contagion aims to find an audience in both the mainstream and the art house crowds.
Early promotional materials have been playing up the film’s horror angle with a series of posters warning, “Don’t Talk To Anyone, Don’t Touch Anyone.” Contagion producer Michael Shamberg was quoted in “The New York Times,” saying, “Hopefully, you can sell a lot of tickets if you find a fresh way to scare people.”
Unlike apocalyptic thrillers like the current box office champ, Rise of the Planet of the Apes, Contagion takes an unnervingly authentic approach to depicting mankind’s demise. One of the film’s production companies, Participant Media, began a social action campaign offering advice for how to prevent contamination.
Though Contagion is first and foremost an entertainment, it’s clear that Soderbergh intends to get under his audience’s skin.