Contagion - 4K Blu-ray Review

Michael Scott

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Contagion


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Movie: :4stars:
4K Video: :4.5stars:
Video:
Audio: :4stars:
Extras: :1.5stars:
Final Score: :4stars:




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Movie

It’s always funny how art can imitate reality so many times. I mean, how many of us back in 2011 saw Contagion and thought it was THAT creepy. Sure, we’d have SAR-1 and Swine flu to worry about, but the general population really didn’t pay them much heed. So Steven Soderbergh’s taught thriller was just that, a taught thriller back 13 years ago. I personally picked up the Blu-ray after I saw it in the cheap seats back in 2012, and immediately put it on my shelf never to be seen again until today. However, Pulling up the new MOD 4K UHD disc from Warner Brothers churned a mildly uneasy feeling in the pit of my stomach as the plot details flooded back into my mind. If I remembered correctly the events in the film sounded eerily like how a certain virus played out a couple of years ago, and I was correct. Art did seem to imitate real life just a little TOO well as I watched the decade + ensemble film with brand new ideas.

The plot revolves around an amalgamation of people interacting with each other in a sort of “7 degrees from Kevin Bacon” styling in regards to a mysterious malady that strikes the world unexpectedly. It all starts with a a young woman (Gwyneth Paltrow) coming back from a Hong Kong business trip with the sniffles, only to keel over dead the very next day along with her young son, leaving husband Mitch (Matt Damon) holding the bag. Not only does the family have to suffer the horror of death, but the rest of the world and the CDC realize really quickly that this is a new virus that no one has ever seen before. It seems to be sweeping the globe in a world wide pandemic stage in a matter of days, and even the CDC and all of their vast resources are struggling to come up with a revolutionary vaccine that could slow the progress.

Naturally people are anxious to get things under control, but the longer this goes on the more and more primal people become. Days turn into weeks, which turn into months as everyone hunkers down and tries to protect what is theirs against the prowlers and nerdowells who want to just take and take in the chaos. Ironically there’s a sub plot about a miracle drug that the CDC wants to quell that can “cure the disease” (again, not siding for or against it, but EEERIE how it plays out in the film) pushed by independent journalist Alan Krumwiede (Jude Law), as well as different countries breaking down and imposing their own lock downs as the pandemic spirals on.

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The film is less about having a single 3 act story on film, but rather is done in a very Soderbergh way of simply “chronicalling” what happens as different people from all corners of the globe try and ride out a virus that human kind has not faced before. It’s low key and tense, but still manages to pull you in and keep you occupied the entire time. Soderbergh does a good job of playing with viewers emotions, having you both root and hate people at the same time, and both hope for and despise the “miracle cure” that Alan is so sure is being suppressed by the government.

Honestly, after having lived through three years of pandemic (or two years in my state, we dropped our lock downs 6 months to a year before other states finally let go) Contagion is REALLY disturbingly similar to how things played out here. It’s almost as if they pulled a page from The Simpsons and went full on prophet mode as so many things were got RIGHT over 10 years ago. Magical new respiratory virus, government bum rushing a vaccine that may or may not work, the diseases coming from a bat (seriously?) and the full on lock down method of various local and federal governments in handling the diseases. I honestly felt more than a little uncomfortable watching the film simply because it didn’t feel like fiction for once. It felt a little TOO close to home. But at the same time, that’s what makes the film so fascinating to watch. It really COULD happen (and kind of did) and it allowed me to finally see the film in a more serious light than “oh yeah, another warning of a disaster/apocalypse film” point of view that I saw it with 13 years ago.




Rating:

Rated PG-13 for disturbing content and some language




4K Video: :4.5stars: Video:
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Warner didn’t include the old Blu-ray to compare against, but luckily I still have my copy on the shelf and could do a direct comparison for us here, and I’m happy to report that the differences are pretty large. The original Blu-ray was crammed on a BD-25, and with Soderbergh’s very heavy stylistic color grading it was solid at best. There was some compression artifacts, some soft shots and black levels that looked a bit milky sometimes. However, the new 4K UHD disc is leagues better in just about every ways. We still have Steven’s addiction to blending heavy yellow, green and blue color grading all over the place, but it’s much better realized on screen this time. Facial details are incredibly revealing, and while there are some soft shots here and there the image is much crisper and more detailed all the way round. Black levels are deep and inky, and I detected to signs of any crush (even on a moderate level). All in all, this is a great upgrade thanks to some very mild HDR fine tuning and the bigger disc and larger bitrate allowing the heavily stylized film to finally have some breathing room.








Audio: :4stars:
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Contagion’s 4K audio performance is simply a port of the 5.1 DTS-HD MA track from the Blu-ray and it’s not gonna knock anyone’s socks off. The film is decided front heavy as it’s a talky film, and literally 90% plus of the film is simply dialog. Said dialog is crisp and clean, located up front and balanced nicely with some decent ambient surround noises. Bass pops off at a few minor instances, otherwise this is strictly a dialog based track, and it shows. Simple, precise, and unpretentious, the 5.1 DTS-HD MA still holds up today as an excellent example of a well done “non showy” track.













Extras: :1.5stars:
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• The Reality of Contagion
• The Contagion Detectives
• How a Virus Changes the World













Final Score: :4stars:


As I said above, Contagion hits a bit harder after the Covid pandemic than it did back in 2011. It still was a good movie, but Soderbergh was able to eerily predict many of our modern day approaches to a deadly pandemic with startling accuracy at times. The movie is not as focused or thrilling as others in the genre, but his unique ability to look at things from all angles makes Contagion a film worth revisiting. Warner’s MOD disc is head and shoulders better than the BD-25 Blu-ray that was released 12 years ago, and definitely worth checking out if you can.


Technical Specifications:

Starring: Matt Damon, Kate Winslet, Jude Law, Lawrence Fishbourne, Gwyneth Paltrow, John Hawkes, Marion Cotillard
Directed by: Steven Soderbergh
Written by: Scott Z. Burns
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 HEVC
Audio: English: DTS-HD MA 5.1,
Sugtitles: English, French, Deutsch, Spanish, Italian, Nederlands, Mandarin, Cantonese, Japanese, Dansk, Nordic, Czech, Swedish
Studio: Warner Brothers
Rated: PG-13
Runtime: 106 minutes
Blu-ray Release Date: February 27th, 2024
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Recommendation: Good Watch

 
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Todd Anderson

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Great review, Mike. I'm going to revisit this one.

A decade ago, it freaked me out... very curious to see my reaction to it now!
 
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