This was a really solid movie, and I enjoyed it immensely. Great cast, good acting, good narrative that manages to be cohesive and captivating even though the main, unifying character is invisible. “A virus is too small to be seen on video camera,” remarks one character, yet director Steven Soderbergh has proven that it can still star in a movie.
It’s a thriller, but it’s not your typical “scary” movie. The most frightening thing about it is how realistic it is, how close we all seem to be teetering on the edge of a worldwide plague, buffered only by random coincidences and chance encounters that so far have managed not to happen. I became paranoid during and after this movie that I was touching my face too much (despite Kate Winslet’s character’s constant warnings!) and was hyper-aware of people coughing or sniffling around me in the theater, which definitely added to the experience. If nothing else, I’ll always remember this movie as the place where I learned the word “epidemiologist.”
I don’t want to give away too much about how the virus starts, spreads, or is combated, because I think that’s a lot of the fun in watching this movie, getting caught up in the paranoia and fear and figuring out what happened and what is happening. But I think there are two main illustrations of spiritual truths that can be taken away from this film, that won’t be too spoiler-y.
Firstly, there is a character (blogger Alan, played by Jude Law) who sees conspiracy and cover-up in every story, and who is determined to speak what he insists is “the truth”. You’ll have to let me know, after you watch it, if you think he really believes the messages he spouts to his online followers or if he is profiting off people’s fears. The interesting thing about Alan is that he is adamant about his beliefs, without having anything to really back them up. No amount of evidence from officials or scientists can convince him, because he dismisses any findings he disagrees with as falsified. In a very obvious way, Alan’s rantings run parallel to the deadly virus, infecting the world with dangerous and unfounded beliefs one person at a time. Dr. Cheever (Laurence Fishburne) goes so far as to say that Alan’s lies are actually more dangerous than the disease itself.
“In order for a person to get sick they need to come into contact with a sick person or something they’ve touched. In order to get scared all you need to come into contact with is a rumor, or the TV, or the internet.” –Dr. Cheever
For much of the movie the Centers for Disease Control are attempting to implement ways to stop people from coming into contact with the virus, but as Dr. Cheever states, in today’s world there is no way to stop people from coming into contact with the millions of lies in circulation. How are we to know what is real and what is true? What if all the governments and human authorities really are lying to us?
Fortunately Christians do have a reliable source of truth that is unchanging throughout time, in scripture. Of course there are some earthly sources of information that are more trustworthy than others, and we can use reason and logic to deduce what may or may not be true for particular issues, but ultimately, God wants us to become adept at discerning his will, not governments’.
Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. —Romans 12:1-2
In a situation such as the one presented in Contagion, where there is a devastating deadly global epidemic, maybe God’s will for an individual is that he help protect a weaker, more vulnerable person. Maybe it’s that she help care for the infected. Maybe it’s that they secure supplies for those who are not rich enough to afford to buy priority. Those actions are things that a person could discern, regardless of the conflicting information on the internet and cable news regarding the source and prognosis of the disease, if they have a transformed mind and are seeking God’s will. (This blog is one of the ways that I hope to help encourage nonconformity with the patterns of this world, by continually forcing myself to consider movies from a Biblical perspective.)
The beginning of the passage in Romans is relevant, too, because you might say that one of the characters, Dr. Ally Hextall, (Jennifer Ehle), literally offers her body as a living sacrifice. (Not to God, but it’s still good imagery). Dr. Hextall is one of the many, many people involved in trying to come up with a cure. I would say that’s the second theme that stuck out to me, similar to what I said about the last Harry Potter, that it is a good illustration of how the body of Christ functions, with everyone contributing in their own and very vital way. A solution might not have been possible or might have taken much longer to discover or implement if any one of the people that worked towards it had not participated. Some of them lost their lives, but their efforts still ended up helping save millions.
If we allow our minds to be transformed, as 1 Corinthians 12 instructs us to do, perhaps we will be better able to have this sort of big-picture perspective. The big picture for us is not that we are fighting against a physical virus, but a spiritual one, a global infestation of sin in every human ever born that leads to destruction. There is already a known cure. It is our job to help spread the knowledge and example of Jesus’ redeeming sacrifice. If spreading the gospel leads to hardships for us, even loss of life, it doesn’t mean those efforts won’t contribute to a larger result of more souls being saved from the wages of sin. (It’s not a perfect analogy of course, sin isn’t really synonymous to a virus, and Jesus’ blood isn’t a vaccine.)
I’ll leave you with a less-than-inspiring, but rather humorous, quote from the film:
“Blogging isn’t writing, it’s graffiti with punctuation.”—Dr. Cheever
Ouch! I certainly hope my readers don’t have such a low opinion of my little blog.