“ ‘If people are watching it again, and if federal and state officials are watching it again, I hope they’re realizing that the movie was really about what can happen with a novel pandemic threat, and I think people should have taken it much more seriously. I wish people had paid closer attention to it when the film came out, because it really was a warning to the federal government that this could happen and you need to prepare.’ ”
That’s Tracey McNamara, professor of pathology at Western University of Health Sciences in California, talking with BuzzFeed News about the 2011 film “Contagion,” which has been racking up views amid the coronavirus outbreak.
McNamara, who helped discover the West Nile virus and pushed the Department of Defense to investigate the disease, served as a scientific adviser on the movie.
With a star-studded cast including Matt Damon and Gwyneth Paltrow, “Contagion” is about a global epidemic that starts in Hong Kong and ultimately spreads around the world as scientists search for a cure. In the end, millions succumb to the disease.
“The movie really rang true, and, now that we’re dealing with coronavirus, it really captured when you’re dealing with something unknown,” McNamara is quoted as having told BuzzFeed News. “Just like with the West Nile virus, you’re going to hear a lot of people making all sorts of proclamations and announcements, and whenever someone says something about a brand-new, previously unknown virus, I think, you should choose your words carefully. You may have to eat them.”
Scott Burns, the “Contagion” screenwriter, explained to NPR that the filmmakers wanted to avoid “a Hollywood exaggeration” and to instead deliver a “plausible” outbreak scenario.
“We were trying to tell a story that was credible within the boundaries of scientific understanding, but also illuminate how our world might respond,” he said. “That is why the poster of the movie says, ‘Nothing spreads like fear.’ ”
For a taste of it, this trailer recently surpassed 11 million views:
As one commenter among thousands chimed in: “2011: this is just a movie … 2020: this is a really scary documentary.”
But should you watch it? That depends. Judging from prevailing Twitter TWTR, -4.31% sentiment, something a bit more uplifting may be in order:
There are now 107,758 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 3,658 deaths, according to the latest figures from the Johns Hopkins Whiting School of Engineering. More than 60,000 people have recovered worldwide. Case counts in Iran, Italy, and South Korea continue to rise, but so are the number of cases in France and Germany. In the U.S., there have been 437 diagnosed cases and 19 deaths.