Film Review: Contagion (2011)

Rating: 4/5

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Contagion (2011), which I watched in February – my only film so far this year – chronicles the spread of an r0=4, IFR=~25% zoonotic virus called MEV-1 originating from Chinese bats. So, relevant.

The standard Hollywood movie wouldn’t mention r0 or fomites, so it wasn’t time wasted. The directors really took care with getting the details right, which included consulting epidemiologists.

The lockdown in this movie lasted for many months until the discovery of a vaccine, with no talk of reopening that I can recall. This makes sense, obviously a 25% mortality plague differs from a 1% mortality one that’s only highly risky for older people.

As of the discovery of the vaccine, 2.5 million Americans had died, and 26 million worldwide. We are currently one order of magnitude off from that number. But that makes sense. Since COVID-19 mortality is far lower, the measures undertaken to contain SARS-2 are much less extreme than would have been undertaken for MEV-1.

Even the conspiracy theory aspect is highlighted. As with our own timeline, there is talk that it could be a bioweapon at the start. One of the main characters is a conspiracy blogger peddling homeopathic cures (which he quietly profits from). I suppose we have these equivalents in the “5G cause COVID-19” people and the like. But one type of conspiracy character they left out, probably because he would strain credibility, is the person who insists that Corona is a hoax. But I have had a couple of friends/acquaintances declare that to me this May, one of whom is a left-winger (calling me a “COVID fascist”), one of whom is a right-winger (“ostensible nationalist” whose going along with the globalists). Like, I could kinda understand that back in January. But in May, when daily deaths in the US are still running at more than 1,000 per day – after two months of lockdown? As they say, life is stranger than fiction.

There were a few WTF moments.

Most prominently, some Hong Kong government bigwig kidnapped a WHO official at gunpoint to blackmail her into procuring vaccines for his village clan. Probably not that likely.

The robbers who shot and looted the protagonist’s neighbor’s house were all whites. Probably not that likely.

But these are minor gripes.

Anatoly Karlin is a transhumanist interested in psychometrics, life extension, UBI, crypto/network states, X risks, and ushering in the Biosingularity.


Inventor of Idiot’s Limbo, the Katechon Hypothesis, and Elite Human Capital.


Apart from writing booksreviewstravel writing, and sundry blogging, I Tweet at @powerfultakes and run a Substack newsletter.


  1. Please keep off topic posts to the current Open Thread.

    You can find all my reviews here.

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  2. Mitleser says

    WHO officials should be kidnapped more often for the benefit of others.

  3. How many of those consipiracy peddlers or Corona is a hoax are on this site, how many deaths have they caused? Though this is a niche site, so probably not a lot? How many deaths has Trump caused with his its just the flu, or open up America at all costs?

  4. Contagion is a good movie and yes, especially relevant now. In terms of the WHO kidnapping, while contrived, the basic sentiment of desperation/need to protect your own is not so overblown. Witness the jostling going on about who will get the vaccine first already in play with the US being accused of trying to corner the market. Geopolitically, the country that becomes most immune first/the most, thus affording its citizen more internal AND external travel, would give it various advantages.

    On another note: the reason why despite efforts to contain the outbreak in Russia, it wasn’t possible may lie in what the Chinese are going through with their outbreak in the NorthEast which was a strain imported from Russia.

    In a Bloomberg article headlined “China’s New Outbreak Shows Signs the Virus Could Be Changing”, in which

    Officials now believe that the new cluster stemmed from contact with infected arrivals from Russia, which has one of the worst outbreaks in Europe. Genetic sequencing has showed a match between the northeast cases and Russian-linked ones, said Qiu.

    The nature of the strain appears to such that:

    Patients found in the northern provinces of Jilin and Heilongjiang appear to carry the virus for a longer period of time and take longer to test negative, Qiu Haibo, one of China’s top critical care doctors, told state television on Tuesday.

    Patients in the northeast also appear to be taking longer than the one to two weeks observed in Wuhan to develop symptoms after infection, and this delayed onset is making it harder for authorities to catch cases before they spread, said Qiu, who is now in the northern region treating patients.


    China has one of the most comprehensive virus detection and testing regimes globally and yet is still struggling to contain its new cluster.


    Among the northeast cluster, only 10% have turned critical and 26 are hospitalized.

    all suggesting (yet to be rigorously analyzed) that the predominant Russian-mutation might be more infectious but less deadly (as compared to say the West European/NorthEast American strain).

  5. Why is Brazil getting so many deaths despite a young population and a tropical climate even in winter?

  6. Interesting theory, not dismissing. But both the West European/NorthEast American strains, and the Russian strain, came from Italy. It would only have had a generation or two to mutate in Moscow before getting carried back to China.

  7. Abelard Lindsey says

    I’ve seen this movie. Other than shutting down air travel, there are no “shutdowns” like the ones’ we’re experiencing right now. Rather, people on their own stopped showing up at work, going out to restaurants and bars, etc. and the economy grinds to a halt as a result. People are rioting and generally going nuts towards the end of the movie simply because the high lethality (25%) of the bug. You will note the electricity and water stays on throughout the movie (not like, say, “12 Monkeys” or those zombie movies where the basic infrastructure and civilization fails).

    This scenario is sketched out in the John Ringo novel “the Last Centurion” which features a human to human version of H5N1 bird flu, along with a 60% mortality rate. There were local quarantines, but no government mandated shutdowns in this novel as well. The economy came apart simply because everyone stopped coming to work.

    The common theme of both the movie and the novel is that people start isolating themselves on their own long before governments react to the plague. We saw this back in late February when I noticed a lot less people in the gyms and restaurants before there was even talk of a shutdown. Another theme is that electricity, water, and other basic functions stay on during the pandemic. There are sporadic power outages in the novel, but none lasting more than a few weeks. Food is a problem in the novel partly because many farmers dies and many that did not die were not able to plant and harvest for a season. This is exacerbated in the novel by the entry into another Maunder Minimum (mini ice age).

    Both scenarios show civilization continuing to exist, again not like those execrable zombie movies and tv shows that have been so popular of late.

  8. Tsar Nicholas says

    those consipiracy peddlers . . . how many deaths have they caused?

    None, but those who are peddling an unrealistic view of this disease and locking down society are killing people. In old homes by withholding medical treatment, in wider society by downgrading routine treatment for real diseases like cancer, stroke and heart attack, by increasing poverty and unemployment, by deterring fresh air and exercise as well as exposure to sunlight, and by enforcing social isolation, which if done in a prison is regarded as torture.

  9. songbird says

    The most interesting thing about this movie is that it was financed by a company that was designed to fund globohomo propaganda:

    Participant is a Los Angeles, California-based film production company founded in 2004 by Jeffrey Skoll (first employee of ebay), dedicated to entertainment intended to spur social change… The company’s name descriptively politicizes its basis on currently topical subjects presented to induce awareness of problematic social aspects… focused on films in six areas – the environment, health care, human rights, institutional responsibility, peace and tolerance, and social and economic justice …The company has produced, financed, or co-produced over 100 films. Its films have been nominated for 73 Academy Awards, and have won 18, including Best Picture for Green Book and Spotlight.

    The only other of their films that I’ve seen is Waiting for Superman – a confused documentary about schools in the US. It was anti-union, but its main message seemed to be, if only the feds could get rid of all these pesky local school districts, with their bad lesson plans, then blacks would all be interchangeable with whites.

    I prefer the based and redpilled movie Outbreak, which judiciously promotes the hygienic use of thermobaric aid drops to Africa.

  10. The funny thing is that it is a good film but it took a pandemic for it to blow up. Too many people sleep on Soderbergh’s genius.

  11. The Germ Theory of Disease says

    The best epidemic movie is still the original “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” (the Donald Sutherland remake is pretty good too). Not as scientific as Contagion, but the stakes are clearer, and the dread is more real. At current Third World population and migration levels, a global bug with a 25 per cent IFR sounds like a Where do I sign? deal.

    The greatest work of art re plagues and epidemics is of course not Camus but “Rhinoceros!” by Ionesco.

  12. HammerJack says

    Good, concise review. Thanks.

    The robbers who shot and looted the protagonist’s neighbor’s house were all whites.

    Well of course. The movie did come from Hollywood. Of course, if it were made today the virus would have to originate in Scandinavia or Minnesota.

  13. Mightypeon says

    Actually, 5G causing Corona isnt that dumb.

    Radiation comparable to 5G has been shown to cause the activation of latent Viral DNA loads in animals. If its the same with 5G and humans, then 5G could restart latent Flu Genes in your DNA.

  14. Yes, he’s a very talented director and his style is well suited to this particular subject matter.

  15. mark tapley says

    The fake virus was exposed by reporter Harry Vox in 2014 from Rockefeller foundation documents from 2012. This scam is a cover for another Elite plundering operation like was done in 08-09. China is the model. The goal is total surveillance and control

  16. MEH 0910 says

    I prefer the based and redpilled movie Outbreak, which judiciously promotes the hygienic use of thermobaric aid drops to Africa.

    Fuel Air Bomb _ Outbreak 1995

  17. Astuteobservor II says

    I got the fuck out of NYC at the start of Feb. I have zero faith in the retarded mayor of NYC. My new home area hasn’t seen a new infection in 5 weeks. My self quarantine is almost 4 months now.

    I would not enter a lottery where there is 1% chance i would die. Same for my family members.