Face Touching Horror

Contagion does two things right in depicting a pandemic in westernized society – the freakishness of the unknown pathogen and the public latching onto lunatic fringe conspiracies. How right Contagion was is its most inherently terrifying quality.

Odd reference incoming, but Men in Black contains an alluring speech from Tommy Lee Jones’ character, explaining why the government doesn’t just announce aliens live among us. “People are dumb, panicky dangerous animals,” he explains, of which Contagion relates to. As information about an unknown, lethal virus is unleashed, an internet blogger posts about an unproven cure, then panicky, dangerous animals rush to get some, and portions of society fall.

Contagion is a fascinating piece of pandemic fiction

Dazzlingly researched, Contagion brought the term “social distancing” into the dialog before anyone outside of the CDC or WHO knew of it. Unfortunately, Contagion also introduced ideas that never came to fruition, like people dying in public, social decay, and vaccine lotteries. When those things didn’t happen in our reality, somehow the conspiracies grew, because if it didn’t match Hollywood, it must be a global scam.

It’s proper then Contagion asks questions about authority. However, it’s also a film about the process, and at times speaks directly (too directly, arguably) as to how these problems are solved at such scale. In that, Contagion is a fascinating piece of pandemic fiction, made more so by its alluring authenticity. For dramatic effect, the script delves into social disarray, up to the American President being sent to undisclosed, isolated location, an easy method to instill fear into a viewer, and to understand the viral intensity without any grander exposition.

Contagion’s greatest asset is remaining nuanced and calm. If anything, that’s what became lost in political reality, but Contagion’s tone is measured and sure. It conveys intelligent authority and presence, with methods to both scare and calm. It delves into political distractions amid crisis, internal turmoil via the military, and most importantly, the human element, although the latter lacks the same hooks as the science.

Framed around Matt Damon’s character – his on-screen wife Gwyneth Paltrow is patient zero – the immediate and total loss of his family brings the scale down to a relatable level. It’s sensible, but rarely engaging considering what the rest of Contagion’s world faces. Spending time with his antsy teen daughter as she pleads to see her boyfriend feels as immature (if true) as it is. If Contagion gets anything wrong, it’s the aftermath where everyone and everything seems normal. It’s too easy, too soon, and too presumptive about panicky, dangerous animals.


A vivid, bright, and intense HDR pass makes its presence known almost immediately. The way sun and other light sources vibrantly pop is immense. Contagion immediately grabs the eye with its peak contrast, and when backed by the thick black levels, the dynamics in this image are quite spectacular.

Given primarily a sickly yellow hue, Contagion doesn’t erupt with color, but it’s not intended to. This is countered by an even flatter cool aesthetic to enhance drama, flesh tones dropping toward pale.

Luckily, although Contagion was filmed digitally rather early in cinematic technology, the finish was done at 4K. While still hindered by those moments where glossy digital faces erode the texture (medium shots, primarily), Contagion shows superb clarity. Definition excels, defining every frame wonderfully, and visibly taking advantage of the format’s resolution. While not an astonishing gain over the Blu-ray, the differences are apparent, and the 4K wins in each category, doubly so for what the HDR brings.


DTS-HD handles the often quiet audio mix, same as the Blu-ray. Not quiet in a volume sense, to be clear, but overall tone. The music can and will throb in the low-end. Not to any great degree, but the electronic score does utilize the range.

Environments project a natural, organic soundstage that spreads hospital or city ambiance wide. Surrounds and stereos connect when and where they should. Casino flashbacks sound spectacular, with bouncing noises in all directions.


Three bonuses port over from the Blu-ray, now dated, looking into pandemics and how Contagion reflects a possible reality.

  • Video
  • Audio
  • Extras


Eerily predictive, Contagion took audiences through a pandemic before a real one, but apparently didn’t stick the landing long term.

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The following six screen shots serve as samples for our subscription-exclusive set of 40 full resolution uncompressed 4K screen shots grabbed directly from the UHD:

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