Belated Movie Review: Contagion

Between Netflix and the inability of modern Americans to behave in public places, I don’t really see a lot of movies in the theater (unless I can manage to catch a weekday late afternoon showing). So I’m often late to movies. But being a microbiologist, who has worked in public health, I did put Contagion into my movie queue and recently watched. The short review: it’s a very good movie.

It’s suspenseful, with good acting–and the cast doesn’t crowd each other out, even though it’s filled with excellent actors. But what I really liked is that they got the science essentially right. Yes, there are a few shortcuts to make the plot move: the Public Health Service isn’t involved (no uniforms anyway), the conferences would involve more experts, and the offices and computer software are a little snazzier looking than in real life (then again, Matt Damon and Gwyneth Paltrow are also better looking than most people too). But this is a movie, not a WHO planning paper. In fact, I could find only one minor problem:

R0</sub?, the basic reproductive rate, is written on a whiteboard as R-0". On the other hand, it's actually described accurately without being incomprehensible.

That’s it. A good movie that doesn’t punt the science or make a biologist cringe. Who coulda thunk it?

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One Response to Belated Movie Review: Contagion

  1. Lance Turtle says:

    But what about the picture of the “virus” (which was actually a protein) bound to its receptor, somehow gained before they could grow it in culture? And the genome of 14 to 19kb? And when they say they can’t grow it in culture it kills the cells – that’s exactly what you want, it means the soup is full of virus! And then deriving R0 from the sequence of a virus… I agree it was an entertaining film, but some of the science did make me cringe I’m afraid. Overall I was disappointed.

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