2010 Mar 11

Steven Soderbergh’s “Contagion” plot details revealed

I’d like to tell you that I was running through an alley with my IESB cohorts after uncovering a Golden Ticket in a Wonka Bar and we were stopped by Slugworth who gave us a classified file containing plot details from the Scott Z. Burns penned script Contagion. That isn’t what happened, but we’ll go with that to establish some street cred for IESB.

To referesh your memory, Contagion is about a killer virus outbreak that spans the globe. If you remember this script was one of the hottest topics in the screenwriting world in February, before WB ended up with distribution and is now co-financing the project with Participant Media on a budget of 60 million.

The Scott Z. Burns penned script already has Steven Soderbergh attached to direct along with an all star cast including: Gwyneth Paltrow, Kate Winslet, Matt Damon, Marion Cotillard, Laurence Fishburne, and Jude Law. Law just recently came out and discussed his character with Coming Soon, “I play a kind of unbridled blogger who’s a sort of scaremonger,” IESB can confirm that the character’s name is “Krumweide” and he has quite an obsession with conspiracy theories.

We have been told by our good friend “Slugworth” that the story throws you right into the very early stages of this killer virus. Here is his breakdown that he wrote for us on the back of my Wonka’s Whipple Scrumptious Fudgemallow Delight wrapper.

You are introduced to the first victims of this extremely deadly virus; thirty – something business woman Beth Emhoff, early twenty – something casino employee Li Fai, and young Ukrainian model Irina Modelskova. Yes, the Ukrainian model’s last name actually has “model” in it. Beth is in Chicago at O’Hare Airport, Fai is located in Hong Kong and is currently on a ferry, and Irina is at Heathrow Airport in London. They are all coming or going and all are in crowded areas, of course they’re already not feeling well. This is how it all begins, the virus is already making an impact. It’s tentacles already reaching out all over the globe for its naive inhabitants.

According to Slugworth this is a well crafted ensemble piece and the comparisons to Traffic are not far off, but the comparisons to Bourne on the other hand have missed the target and then some.

After a crowded train ride Fai arrives home, which is with his sister Bai, his symptoms are worsening. We cut to Thomas Emhoff is picking up his stepson at elementary school, young Clark, who is also sick. Meanwhile Irinia is partying it up cocaine style with a dude in a bathroom stall at some bump & grind nightclub in London. Now in Minnesota, Beth and her son have formed a sick ward in the Emhoff’s bedroom, mother and son are getting worse. Fai finally reaches his breaking point. He’s wandering the streets, confused, until a truck ends his life. After being too sick to stay at a modeling casting gig, Irina dies alone in her hotel room. Beth is next, she falls victim to seizures at home and then dies in the hospital. Her son Clark follows, passing at a neighbor’s house. A YouTube video of a man convulsing on a train and dying that eventually goes viral on YouTube with millions of hits, puts an exclamation point on the first fifteen pages.

Slugworth told IESB that he really felt uncomfortable just reading the plot details. I almost felt sick myself as he told me about the victim’s ever increasing list of symptoms. My hands kind of felt clammy. I asked Rob if my head was hot and he told me to, “Man Up.”

Now we are taken to Dubai where a 40 year old Rafik Khalifia is being tended to by his butler Ahraf and a doctor. Clark’s school has learned of his passing and is now sending all the kids home, the teachers don’t even want to go near the kids. Can you blame them? Back at the hospital Thomas Emhoff has been put into isolation, for some reason he hasn’t got sick. Is he immune to this virus? He is bombarded with questions and goes through test after test. In the morgue, his wife and child are long dead but going through an autopsy. They find something way out of the ordinary in Beth’s brain. This doesn’t look good. It doesn’t look good for Fai’s sister Bai either. She is sick and getting sicker. Bai also happens to be walking through a crowded bus station. Spreading the virus.

From here we move from the victims, to the ones who are going to be responsible for trying to stop this outbreak. We are now introduced to Dr. Ellis Cheevers who is one of the main characters. He is at Thanksgiving dinner with his family when he gets the call, he’s being summoned to help with the virus. Cut to a character named Krumwiede, a journalist/blogger. He is watching the YouTube video of the man convulsing on the train. He knows there is a cover up. We cut back to Thomas Emhoff who is receiving a visitor, his daughter Jory from a different marriage. Now we are introduced to Dr. Erin Mears, she’s meeting with Dr. Cheevers at the Center For Disease Control (CDC). At the World Health Organization Dr. Leonara Orantes watches the YouTube video. She knows it is something more than what she’s been hearing.

Slugworth hesitated to write down any more plot details but did talk to us about the overall story as he kept checking over his shoulders. To be honest I think Jamie was making him feel a little uneasy. He does that to people.

This is a mystery thriller and the comparisons to any of the Bourne movies are so inaccurate that I can’t even fathom where that came from. I guess because Damon is attached along with Soderbergh and Scott Z. Burns? Trust me; there are no car chases, shaky camera fights or assassins chasing down doctors. There doesn’t need to be. The story is built off characters, tone, and the nature of the subject matter. I understand why somebody would want to mention the Bourne movies while marketing or pitching this project but there is nothing about this story which would make you think Bourne.

At this point he actually looked like he was getting sick himself. I noticed Stephanie was backing away from him, but it might have been his rotting teeth. Candy will do that to you.

Your hands feel clammy when the characters hands are sweating. Your head feels a bit warm when the characters are experiencing a fever. It’s like when you look over your shoulder when watching a horror movie alone at home, you know something bad is happening but it feels real. It’s as if it is happening to you, and in this case, the story they are telling is very real and very possible. You’re made very aware of large crowds and everywhere these characters go are crowded; airports, apartment buildings, trains, and hospitals. There is a focus on animals, is that where the virus might be coming from? You don’t know and that is what is scary. The building tension, the fear of the unknown. The clues are all there, you can piece them together along with the characters who are heavily involved in the detective work. You won’t feel like an outsider looking in. You almost feel like you are part of the story yourself.

After hearing a sound in the vicinity Slugworth was off. I found myself standing there with a Wonka Bar that I no longer wanted to eat. I didn’t feel so good. The four of us headed back to the IESB offices and each took turns reading “Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator”.

Source: iesb.net