Directed by Steven Soderbergh, Contagion details the chaos that ensues after a deadly virus begins making its way across the globe – with the film following several disparate characters as they doggedly attempt to identify and, eventually, cure the virus. Soderbergh, working from a script by Scott Z. Burns, has infused Contagion with an extremely fast-paced sensibility that proves effective at immediately capturing the viewer’s interest, with the hit-the-ground-running atmosphere initially compensating for the curious lack of context and character development. There inevitably reaches a point, however, at which the overtly clinical bent of Burns’ screenplay becomes somewhat oppressive, as it’s increasingly clear that Soderbergh and Burns have designed Contagion to play like a garden-variety medical procedural – which, as a result, ensures that the all-star cast is left with little to do but spout complicated jargon and run frantically from one location to the next (ie there are no actual characters here). Soderbergh’s decision to increasingly emphasize the minutia of the investigation only exacerbates the movie’s hands-off, less-than-engrossing feel, and though the narrative is admittedly punctuated with a few electrifying moments, Contagion is, by and large, about as enthralling and compelling as a typical episode of CSI: Miami. (And this is to say nothing of Jude Law’s ineffective, oddly distracting turn as a muckraking blogger.)

** out of ****

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