Amid fears stoked by the coronavirus, "Contagion" -- a 2011 movie about a pandemic with potentially eerie similarities to recent events -- has been climbing up the iTunes rental charts, reflecting how people often use fiction as a means to process reality. "Contagion" correlates most directly with the current danger
The movie begins with a woman (played by Gwyneth Paltrow) who returns to Minnesota with a strange illness after a trip to Hong Kong. In a matter of days, she's dead, leaving her husband (Matt Damon) in a state of shock, before others begin exhibiting the same symptoms, as the outbreak spreads across the world.
Watch the trailer of "Contagion" here
Directed by Steven Soderbergh and written by Scott Z. Burns, the movie offers an alarming glimpse at a worst-case scenario. Rumors and panic begin to spread, and the guardrails quickly start to come off society as the days click by, amid quarantines, looting and chilling scenes of vacant airports.
Watching the movie again, what stands out -- beyond an inordinately good cast that includes Kate Winslet, Jude Law, Laurence Fishburne, Marion Cotillard and Bryan Cranston -- is how difficult it is to convey the global sweep of such a story without sacrificing something in terms of the drama.
Specifically, "Contagion" scatters its attention among so many characters -- including victims and those desperately working to find a vaccine -- which it suffers in stoking an attachment to any one of them.
Buried within the film, though, is a stark warning that feels even timelier today, subtly conveying how one misguided policy decision or thoughtless action can have a devastating domino effect, sowing the seeds of destruction in a vast, interconnected world.
At the time of the movie's release, Laurie Garrett, a consultant on the film who wrote the book "The Coming Plague," stated that the plot is "part fantasy, part reality and totally possible."
In that sense, "Contagion" is well worth seeing -- or seeing again -- as a reminder that some of the scariest stories don't involve supernatural threats, but those that hew most closely to reality.