January 30, 2020
Steven Soderbergh’s 2011 thriller about the spread of a deadly virus has been back in the iTunes Top 10 – so is this epidemic another thing we can blame on Gwyneth Paltrow?
When old films go viral: how coronavirus gave Contagion an unexpected afterlife
Conventional wisdom has it that audiences flock to escapism in troubled times, but an unexpected new entry on the UK iTunes movie rental chart suggests otherwise. Nestling among the current hits is a film made nine years ago that paints a more terrifying picture of humanity than Joker and Downton Abbey combined. As the coronavirus scythes outwards from China, there have been enough rentals of Steven Soderbergh’s 2011 thriller Contagion to propel the movie into the Top 10. (At the time of writing, it’s at No 13.) The picture, which stars Gwyneth Paltrow and concerns a deadly virus with the potential to decimate the global population, has, in a very real sense, gone viral.
Twitter users have been posting variations on the theme of: “Is it just me or did Contagion predict the coronavirus?” I missed Soderbergh’s film when it was released, and I happen also to be frightened of dying from viral pneumonia, so I killed two birds with one download and watched the movie this week. It’s true that the similarities are striking enough to suggest a case of life imitating … well, if not art exactly, then a top-of-the-line B-movie. In both fictional and real-life cases, the outbreak originates in China and in each instance bats are implicated. As a doctor (played by Jennifer Ehle) at the Centers for Disease Control explains: “Somewhere in the world, the wrong pig met up with the wrong bat.” Worst Tinder date ever.
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