Contagion Parent Guide
While body bags, a gruesome medical procedure and a shocking death scene may leave some viewers worrying about the consequences of human contact, other audience members may react differently.
Parent Movie Review
If the recent H1N1 flu season didn’t send you rushing out to buy hand sanitizer, then Contagion likely will. Sales should soar after the release of this medical thriller about a rapidly spreading virus that causes painful headaches, throat constrictions, seizures and then death, all within hours of exposure.
While movies about deadly epidemics have been done before (think Will Smith in I Am Legend and Matthew McConoughey in Sahara), this one is particularly disturbing because Director Steven Soderbergh doesn’t indulge in dramatic hyperbole. He resists turning all the victims into zombies or pinning the cause on a malicious industrialist. This is pure cell mutation—the kind that has happened before and could realistically happen again. The resulting infection races around the world thanks to personal contact and global travel.
From their offices at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Georgia, Doctors Ellis Cheever (Laurence Fishburne) and Ally Hextall (Jennifer Ehie) track the spreading clusters. Leaving from Switzerland, World Health Organization official Dr. Leonora Orantes (Marion Cotillard) flies to China to pinpoint the source. And in San Francisco, Dr. Ian Sussman (Elliott Gould) searches for a way to grow a culture for study after U.S. businesswoman Beth Emhoff (Gwyneth Paltrow) dies shortly after returning from Hong Kong. Within hours, her son Clark (Griffin Kane) is also dead.
Sent to Minnesota to assess the situation there, Dr. Erin Mears (Kate Winslet) begins organizing treatment centers in hockey rinks and other large facilities. But medical personnel are failing miserably at fighting a mutation they haven’t even identified. As well, local disease control officials don’t want to be accused of taking inflated precautions.
Meanwhile as Mitch Emhoff (Matt Damon) and his daughter Jory (Anna Jacoby-Heron) mourn the death of Beth and Clark, blogger Alan Krumwiede (Jude Law) causes riots when he posts unfounded tales about natural cures for the disease. He further accuses the government and big pharmaceutical companies of holding back information in order to make money from the catastrophe.
The ensuing scenarios come across as all too possible as the population storms grocery stores in search of food, loots and burns businesses, and breaks into fights in food lines and hospital waiting rooms. Ethical issues also arise when limited medical treatment is doled out by a lottery system and one official goes against protocol by warning his wife to get out of town before the city is quarantined.
While growing numbers of body bags, a gruesome medical procedure and a shocking death scene may leave some viewers worrying about the consequences of human contact, other audience members may react differently. Given the possibility of such a situation, how could one prepare? If nothing else, I feel far more motivated to keep my hands away from my face and to restock the hand sanitizer.Directed by Steven Soderbergh. Starring Matt Damon, Kate Winslet, Jude Law. Running time: 107 minutes. Theatrical release September 9, 2011. Updated July 13, 2016
Rating & Content Info
Why is Contagion rated PG-13? Contagion is rated PG-13 by the MPAA for disturbing content and some language.
Violence: A hotel maid finds a dead body. Sick characters are shown in public. One character uses his cell phone to record an ill man having seizures after he falls to the floor on public transit. Later he posts the video. Another character walks into traffic and is hit and killed by a service truck. Numerous sick people suffer seizures and dead patients are shown. A woman’s scalp is peeled back over her face during a medical procedure. Blood splatters on the medical staff during the operation. A woman is kidnapped and held for ransom. Characters rush a pharmacy. Others riot, loot and destroy property. Scuffles and fights break out in medical and food lines. People attempt to steal gas from a car. Shots are fired in a home and robbers ransack a house looking for food and guns. Dead lab animals are shown as well as mass graves in the city. Characters haul body bags out of homes. A character lies about a cure.
Sexual Content: A married woman’s infidelity is discussed on several occasions.
Language: The script contains infrequent profanities, scatological slang and swearing, along with a strong sexual expletive used in a non-sexual context.
Alcohol / Drug Use: Characters drink in social settings. A man insists he and his wife do not use illegal drugs. A woman gives herself an injection of an untested vaccine. Other characters are immunized.
Page last updated July 13, 2016
Contagion Parents' Guide
One government official faces disciplinary action because he warns his wife to get out of town and join him. Given the same situation, would you want to gather your family members together? Should first responders and medical officials be the first to receive vaccinations? What is the fairest way to distribute the treatment?
While this film includes many plausible depictions, how realistic is it to have all services, such as cell phone, electricity, etc., still working? How long would it take to recover from such a disaster?
How does technology become the hero in this movie? How much trust do you put in it? Are human beings still an important part of the solution equation? Who makes sacrifices in order for the problem to be solved? Why is social distancing an important part of the solution?
What similar medical scares have hit our population? How have government and the general public reacted? What different responses might viewers have to this movie? Do you feel hopeful or fearful at the end of the film? Have you made any type of preparations in anticipation of such an event?
The most recent home video release of Contagion movie is January 3, 2012. Here are some details…
Home Video Notes: Contagion
Release Date: 3 January 2012
Contagion releases to home video with the following bonus extras:
- Contagion: How a Virus Changes the World
- False Comfort Zone: The Reality of Contagion
- The Contagion Detectives
Related home video titles:
Matt Damon also stars in Steven Soderbergh’s Ocean’s Eleven, Twelve and Thirteen movies and in his R-rated film about a man who becomes a company whistleblower in The Informant! A scarlet fever outbreak infects a young girl in the 1994 movie Little Women. And an extra-terrestrial source seems to be behind the epidemic in The Invasion.