The movie Contagion explores how a deadly global pandemic could start and how people would respond to it. And the 2011 film has been a popular streaming choice since the public first became aware of the dangers of the novel coronavirus. It might seem weird that anyone would want to watch a fictional version of what we’re living through. But art has always been a way to cope with problems and process our feelings about the world. But does the movie get it right? Is the science of Contagion, as well as the reaction by scientists, politicians, and the public match what’s actually happening now? A pandemic disease expert analyzed the film to see how it compares to what’s happening with COVID-19.
It is way more authentic you might expect. Unfortunately, some of the places the movie got it wrong has more to do with real world failures few screenwriters could have predicted.
In this video from Wired, Dr. Seema Yasmin, pandemic expert and former epidemic intelligence officer, compares Contagion to the current timeline and handling of COVID-19. She used to have the job that Kate Winslet’s Dr. Erin Mears has in the film. But Winslet’s character’s fate is pure Hollywood, as Dr. Yasmin says no epidemic intelligence officer has ever died from the disease they were investigating.
But the film did a lot right, especially in its initial timeline. The event of Contagion do match up closely with the spread and response to COVID-19. (With one major exception—we almost certainly won’t have a vaccine as fast as they did in the movie.) And a lot of the science is spot on, even if there’s some forced exposition to characters who would already know a lot of the terminology.
However, its biggest inaccuracy is something that would have seemed unimaginable in 2011. The film’s snake oil salesman who pushes phony cures, played by Jude Law, isn’t someone the government is trying to stop. Our phony cures have been pushed by some people in our government.
Maybe that’s why so many have been watching Contagion during a real global pandemic. It features a competent response from our elected officials.
Featured Image: Wired