Contagion (2011) (4K Ultra HD)

by - February 27th, 2024 - 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray and DVD

How does the Blu-ray/DVD Disc stack up? (all ratings out of 10.)
  • Movie7
  • Video10
  • Audio9
  • Extras3
  • Overall8


“Sometimes people can be contagious without even having symptoms.”

Dr. Erin Mears


Here’s my review for Contagion, first published on September 9, 2011:

Contagion (2011) | PHOTO: Warner Bros.

“Director Steven Soderbergh (Sex, Lies and Videotape, Erin Brokovich) and writer Scott Z. Burns (The Bourne Ultimatum), fresh off making their humorously surreal real-life black comedy The Informant!, reunite with the intricate and complex viral pandemic thriller Contagion. The movie is a labyrinthine procedural revolving around a gigantic what-if scenario depicting what might happen if an untreatable super-virus rapidly spread across the globe, resulting in chaos, hysteria, and human devastation on an unimaginable scale.

To put it bluntly, Outbreak this movie is not. This isn’t some cheap parlor game where Dustin Hoffman can come swooping down from the sky in a helicopter and a lost monkey holds the key to humanity’s survival. No, Soderbergh and Burns are more interested in tackling this scenario from an unbearably direct and unambiguously straightforward journalistic perspective. The way they tackle the idea is similar to how Alan J. Pakula looked at Watergate in All the President’s Men or how Henry Hathaway put a lens on a ten-year-old murder case in Call Northside 777.

Think of this film as Traffic but with viruses, the World Health Organization (WHO), hyperactive bloggers, and the Center for Disease Control (CDC) all taking the place of drug dealers, undercover cops, and an incorruptible judge searching for their strung-out daughter. Soderbergh uses his preference for narrative exactitude to both entertain and disturb an audience while also attempting to educate them about the potential medical dangers the world is unprepared to face, and he’s assembled a cast of Hollywood heavyweights to assist him.

The overall vibe the director manufactures is chilling. The first is so insidiously disquieting I found myself wanting to bathe in a gallon of hand sanitizer even while sitting in my theater seat. Yet it does go without saying that Soderbergh and Burns have bitten off a bit more than they can successfully chew, and at a briskly paced 105 minutes, there’s far too much going on for the film to easily reconcile all facets of its sprawling story by the time the end credits begin their crawl.

Contagion works best when it focuses on two of its primary plot strands. The first involves Minnesota family man Mithc Emhoff (Matt Damon). His globetrotting wife Beth (Gwyneth Paltrow) is potentially patient zero in this unforgiving crisis, and he is doing all he can to make sure their teenage daughter Jory (Anna Jacoby-Heron) remains safe even if that means not allowing her to properly grieve her mother. The second concerns the head of the CDC, Dr. Ellis Cheever (Laurence Fishburne). His associate Dr. Erin Mears (Kate Winslet) is trying to deal with things at Ground Zero in Minnesota just as polite society crumbles all around her, while his lead scientist Dr. Ally Hextall (Jennifer Ehle) is fastidiously working around the clock to find a cure back in their Atlanta headquarters.

When Soderbergh sticks to these two plot threads it soars like no tomorrow. The human terror at the center of both strands is painfully palpable. Paltrow, even though her role is a small one, gives a shattering performance, while Winslet and Ehle command the screen whenever their characters become the dramatic focal points at the center of all of the action.

Things do get slightly ungainly, the remaining subplots failing to pack the same sort of punch. There’s a WHO scientist (Marion Cotillard) on the ground in Hong Kong trying to retrace Beth’s steps who gets kidnapped by a scared village eager for the antidote to the virus, a conspiracy nut blogger (Jude Law) intent on trying to prove drug companies are in collusion with the governments of the world to make things worse, and a pair of U.S. military and Homeland Security drones (Bryan Cranston, Enrico Colantoni) who theorize that this plague is a terrorist attack. From there we’ve got interactions with wives, coworkers, and friends, all having a part to play and almost none of whom are fleshed out enough to make their situations resonate beyond a superficial level.

Contagion (2011) | PHOTO: Warner Bros.

Still, Soderbergh’s latest works. The tension that is systematically ratcheted up as events progress is bone-chilling, and if anyone were to have coughed or sneezed in the packed screening room, I swear a third of the audience would have screamed, jumped out of their seats, and madly run from the auditorium — and I mean that as a compliment. Cliff Martinez’s (Solaris) ambient score adds an unnerving accompaniment, while the director’s camerawork (Soderbergh once again is his own cinematographer) is creepily scintillating.

Are there things Contagion could do better? Yes, without question, but that’s typically the case with every motion picture, even the ones considered unassailable classics. But I do think this is one of the rare instances where an additional 30 minutes would have transformed a very good film into something borderline magnificent. But ultimately, this real-world thriller coughs up several scares and makes the fantastical feel unbearably believable. It took me a good hour after seeing it for the hair on my arms to relax and the sweat on my brow to dissipate, and if something like this ever did happen, I shudder to contemplate the societal ramifications.”


Contagion is presented on a 4K (2160p) Ultra HD disc with a 1.78:1 1080p transfer.


This 4K Ultra HD disc features English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack and includes English SDH, French, Portuguese, Spanish, Korean, and Mandarin subtitles.


All extras are ported over from the 2012 Blu-ray release:

The Reality of Contagion featurette
The Contagion Detectives featurette
How a Virus Changes the World animated short

A Digital Copy is included with this release.


To say Contagion hits differently in 2024 than it did in 2011 is an obvious understatement. Steven Soderbergh’s real-world pandemic thriller got a lot uncomfortably right, and watching it now is more heartbreaking than it is heart-stopping. But it’s an excellent film, and even with no new extras (this title is begging for a post-COVID audio commentary) Warner’s 4K release is outstanding. This disc is worth the upgrade.

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