I just came back from seeing Contagion, and I'm disappointed.
It's certainly a well-made film--almost too well-made, with the "Day 1" sequence at the end reminding me of Citizen Kane's Rosebud sled going up in flames. Tight plotting is good; tidy plotting, not so much.
The acting is as good as the script allows, but the script is emotionally constrained to a narrow range. The science appears to be sound (certainly far better than the abominable 1995 Outbreak). The evil blogger is amusing.
But no one in the film, and no institutions in the film, appear to change in the course of the pandemic. The widowed father and his teenager daughter slog it out while their neighbours are being shot or killed by MEV-1. (Despite a shortage of Meals Ready to Eat, they seem well fed.)
The soldiers and primary responders are just there to carry out orders, not to worry about them, and the striking nurses never get a chance to state their case. The CDC honcho gets in some political trouble, but shrugs it off. So, evidently, does the CDC itself—despite doing a dreadful job of communicating with the public.
The only real opportunist in the film is the blogger Krumwiede, but half the politicians in the world would be savaging the other half over the conduct of the anti-MEV-1 campaign. Meanwhile, half the bloggers in the world, including Flublogia, would be savaging Krumwiede and the politicians alike.
I can believe the ransacking of supermarkets; I saw panic buying in our local Ralphs on Sunset Boulevard in West Hollywood during the Cuban missile crisis. But I have trouble with most of the social disorder the film portrays. And why do the mobs always operate in close-packed crowds, when they're supposed to be scared silly of getting infected?
Despite the supposed breakdown in food supplies, water and electricity don't fail and the teenager continues to text her beau while Krumwiede blogs his nonsense over a smoothly functioning internet. (He also tucks his flyers under the windshield wipers of parked cars...a surprisingly low-tech way to get out the message, even assuming the cars still have live owners.)
Fear of social breakdown is always close below the surface in any stressed society, but consider how stoically the world endured the pandemic of 1918-19. Even in the aftermath of World War I, societies functioned very well—hell, they even fought more wars while influenza raged. We could no doubt do as well.
As advocacy for good science carried out by government agencies, Contagion is very good. As a serious preview of the next pandemic and its social and political consequences, it's mediocre. If it at least provokes some discussion on disaster planning, it will have done some good.