Steven Soderbergh’s 2011 thriller “Contagion” started reemerging on streaming charts in January just as the coronavirus began dominating news headlines around the world. One month later, “Contagion” is now the second most-watched title in the Warner Bros.’ film catalogue in 2020 (via Buzzfeed). Soderbergh’s unnerving thriller about a worldwide flu epidemic has entered the zeitgeist as the coronavirus spreads around the world, but one of the film’s producers wants to ensure that the right messages are being taken away from the movie.
“We’re not trying to scare people that they’re all going to die,” producer Michael Shamberg tells Buzzfeed. “We’re trying to scare people that you can do something.”
Shamberg says there is comfort to be found in “Contagion,” which depicts a much deadlier virus than COVID-19, because “it shows that ultimately there will be a solution and humanity will recover.” The producer adds, “If it’s scary, it’s only meant to scare people into taking precautions and it’s only meant to scare the infrastructure into doing the right thing.”
“Contagion,” written by Scott Z. Burns, deals as much with the science behind a flu epidemic as it does with the worldwide public reaction. It’s the latter Shamberg says is more important to study when watching “Contagion” in the age of the coronavirus. Burns has often said the film’s ultimately goal was to show “how preexisting conditions in our society make us susceptible to fear as well as the virus.” It’s the “fear” part of “Contagion” that viewers should be paying attention to in order to ensure coronavirus rumors don’t cause unneeded panic. Perhaps the most important character in “Contagion” is Jude Law’s Alan Krumwiede, a conspiracy theorist who capitalizes on the outbreak and raises his profile by stumping for a fake cure.
“It was always part of the original vision of the piece,” Shamberg said about the film prioritizing Law’s character as much as it does the scientist and doctor characters. “You couldn’t just look at the doctors and the people, but what else would happen? It sort of anticipated fake news that is used by people for their own ends.”
Shamberg adds, “It was very deliberately designed to be a cautionary film. We got the science right.”