Out of the archives comes a 2011 American thriller, Contagion, with enough allure to attract, not only film lovers, but also epidemiologists and scientific researchers. It was already wallowing in oblivion when the coronavirus disease of 2019 (COVID-19) came on the scene to create space for it among the world’s top movies. Contagion is, for sure, far more popular now than when it was first releases.
What do you expect when a foretold event comes to pass? Everyone wants to compare the current happenings with what the prediction contains. That is exactly what is happening to Contagion. Many want to watch it and see how author Scott Z. Burns ‘prophesied’ the coronavirus pandemic. You can draw many parallels between the coronavirus and the disease in the film.
The story which happens in the space of 135 days starts from day two and unravels the events of day one in the epilogues. But I’ll start the review from day one.
Deforestation in Hong Kong disrupt the bats’ natural habitat and one of them opts to enjoy a meal calmly in a pigpen. Apparently, the bat has a virus. (It is said that such viruses don’t sicken the bats, rather, they act as a defensive mechanism from predators) Those flying mammals perch upside-down, you know that. So from where it is hanging, a piece of banana, contaminated with the virus, easily drops from its mouth and, like manna, lands in front of a pig. The pig chews the piece and the virus gets deposited between its teeth.
The contaminated pig ends up in a hotel kitchen where a barehanded chef touches the teeth of the animal. Immediately, he is called to attend to a visitor. Without washing his hands, he goes to handshake his guest. Well, he doesn’t have to thoroughly wash his hands with soap or apply a hand sanitizer, he has no time for that, let alone a slightest idea he had the virus on his hands. He simply rubs his hands over his apron and off he goes, providing conveyance of the virus from animal to human. This happens on day one which, like I said, is the epilogue.
Now here is the actual beginning. It sets off with Beth Emhoff (Gwyneth Paltrow) a solo traveler winding up her Hong Kong tour of duty. She happens to be the person who shook the hand of the chef mention above and became contagious. Between Hong Kong and USA, she inadvertently dumps the rapidly proliferating virus in buses, trains, airplanes, and many other items like casino chips, tumblers and many more. Finally, it’s home-sweet-home and straight in the arms of her six year-old son.
Somehow, her husband, Mitch Emhoff (Matt Damon) is immune to the virus but her son and the rest of the world are not. Four days after contracting the disease, Beth dies followed by the son. Shortly, it becomes a pandemic. With patient zero dead, it becomes a pipe dream to track the source of the contagious disease. None the less, research about the cause of the deaths heighten along with efforts to find a vaccine for the virus.
About COVID-19, people are saying it came from a bat in China and spread to the rest of the world via cross-border travelers. It is spread among humans by direct contact or touching surfaces where it is dumped by a carrier. From the hands, the virus can then be transferred into the body through the mouth, nose and eyes.
In Contagion, the virus is coded MEV-1 but has precisely the same characteristics as COVID-19. Researchers in the movie are compelled to discourage people from touching their faces because that is the way the MEV-1 can enter the body; same as COVID-19.
Other issues mentioned in the movie that are being fulfilled now are social distancing, desisting from body contact, self-quarantine and closure of schools. In many countries now, nobody is going to school or social gatherings. Accurate prediction, not so?
As panic spreads across the globe in the fictitious story, one charlatan blogger Alan Krumwiede (Jude Law) pushes ahead of the queue and claims to know the vaccine before scientists do. He contends that forsythia can cure MEV-1 and in the process inspires further affright as people rush for is. That part foreshadowed current claims by real-life blogger Alex Jones and televangelist Jim Bakker. On his website, infowars.com, Jones promotes a toothpaste that he says is anti-coronavirus. Similarly, Bakker peddles a “Silver Solution” that he argues can eliminate COVID-19 within 14 days. Like Krumwiede in the movie, it’s “no cure without lucre” for the two real-life guys.
Let’s validate another prediction. MEV-1 was passed on to humans from a bat in Hong Kong and COVID-19 is said to have come from bat meat in China. No difference. At this point, we can as well put to bed the myth that the coronavirus is a lab construct. Our researchers are telling us just the truth. Those in the movie do the same.
Here is something scary. In Contagion, 26 million people die of the virus around the globe and if that prediction is anything to go by, are we headed for a similar catastrophe? But only time will tell. However, there is a silver lining in the whole gloomy scenario; with concerted effort, a vaccine for MEV-1 is found. Let’s hope a cure for COVID-19 will also be found before the death toll hits that 26 million.
So, if you believe in predictions, this movie is definitely for you. As for me, it is by pure coincidence that events in Contagion and reality happen to be parallel.