Jude Law Sows an Epidemic of Fear in ‘Contagion’
“Contagion” follows the rapid progress of a lethal airborne virus that kills within days. As the fast-moving epidemic grows, the worldwide medical community races to find a cure and control the panic that spreads faster than the virus itself. At the same time, ordinary people struggle to survive in a society coming apart.
As the virus rapidly advances—invisible, relentless and indiscriminate—a different kind of contagion appears, introduced by outsider journalist Alan Krumwiede (Law), who is convinced the government is withholding the truth and maybe even a possible cure. Although many of the issues Krumwiede raises are valid, his methods fan the grassfire of alarm and, says producer Gregory Jacobs, “contribute to the film’s atmosphere of shifting tones and levels, at once a drama, a mystery and a thriller.”
“Part of the story is the way in which information spreads along similar pathways to that of a virus: who gets it and how it moves forward, how it’s altered as it moves from one host to another or one organization to the next. And Krumwiede is the face of that idea,” says Soderbergh. “That was our focus throughout the movie, treating information like a baton that gets passed from one scene to the next. There are so many interesting tributaries. In this situation, it’s a lethal problem because misinformation can kill.”
While the international medical community searches for a cure, Alan Krumwiede pursues an agenda of his own. Combining a genuine reporter’s instinct with a pathological distrust of all things official and a flair for the dramatic, he commits his popular blog to exposing the truth about the growing epidemic…as he sees it.
“His demand for the truth could be seen as heroic,” says Law. “He believes people have a right to know and that information should be shared, especially when it’s something on this scale, and he was the first to break the story of a man dying on a Tokyo bus, who turned out to be one of the virus’ first victims. He has the courage of his convictions but his pride and ego often get in the way. He casts too broad a net for his stories and doesn’t always care about the repercussions of what he puts out there.”
“Krumwiede is not always wrong,” Soderbergh points out.
But neither is he always right. And what he broadcasts takes on a life of its own as people desperate for answers turn to his blog. As the disease continues to proliferate, so does his subscriber base, from modest beginnings to 2 million, then 12 million people. “There are always conspiracy theories that percolate around significant events,” says screenwriter Scott Z. Burns. “And just as a virus begins with one person and spreads, Krumwiede becomes the ‘index patient’ for what becomes a parallel epidemic of fear and panic.”
In developing the complex and undeniably charismatic character, Soderbergh recounts, “Jude and I talked about bloggers who take an anti-government, conspiracy-theory approach—what they sound like, what they look like, and how they behave. We definitely wanted him to have a messianic streak.”
“What’s interesting is that you’re not really sure about him,” says Jacobs. “Is the government really hiding something and does the herbal remedy he’s talking about really work? I think we all suspect at one time or another that we’re not getting the whole truth, and in that sense Krumwiede represents the audience’s point of view.”
“But,” Law confirms, “ultimately, he crosses the line.”
Opening across the Philippines on Friday, Sept. 9 in IMAX and regular theaters, “Contagion” is distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures, a Warner Bros. Entertainment company.
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