Not for a single moment does this pic live up to its marketing hype as a medical thriller. At best, it plays like a fancy documentary with some name talent onboard. At worst, it comes off like a vanity project with a script so weak you wonder how it got financed. Maybe teenage boys really do want to see Gwyneth Paltrow die a horrible death.
Patient Zero of the movie’s pandemic is Beth Emhoff (Paltrow), who contracts the super-virus in Hong Kong. Beth is headed back to Minnesota by way of Chicago. This gives her plenty of time for a little offscreen mufky-fufky with an old flame—thus cheating on her husband Mitch (Matt Damon).
Perhaps this character flaw was further developed in the original script, but it is truly pointless here, as she quickly dies once she gets home. Not long after, her young son succumbs to the virus, leaving daddy and daughter Jory (Anna Jacoby-Heron).
Pretty soon, people are dropping like flies, even if it is apparent that certain of them, including Mitch, have immunity. At this point, the rest of our stars get into the act.
Kate Winslet plays an investigator, working for CDC honcho Dr. Ellis Cheever (Laurence Fishburne), and Elliott Gould does a nice job as academic virus guru Dr. Ian Sussman. What little dramatic tension that does exist is largely brought by conspiracy theory blogger Alan Krumwiede (Jude Law).
The narrative grinds down to a predictable conclusion, and most auds will fell cheated.
***SPOILERS AND OTHER COMMENTS***
Besides the adultery in Beth’s character, which comes to nothing, there are also little blips regarding Dr. Cheever and Krumwiede, and they’re not fleshed out either. The panic caused by lack of vaccine is only briefly hinted at, and that’s surprising, since it would have actually provided some dramatic tension.
A good deal of screen time is devoted to the misadventures of a WHO researcher played by Marion Cotillard, that (surprise, surprise) also comes to nothing.
Finally, the epilog involving Mitch’s teenage daughter going to the prom might “personalize” the story, but you’d think there would be much more to say in the wake of a pandemic that has cost tens of millions of lives worldwide.