I saw Outbreak as a wee lad, and for approximately the next 10 years I was convinced that every cough was an early symptom of Ebola. To my over-active imagination, that half-baked Hollywood thriller was just about the most terrifying film conceivable, the invisible microorganisms that bastard monkey brought to the US were infinitely more frightening than the likes of Freddy, Jason, or even the prospect of Freddy vs. Jason.
And now Steven Soderbergh has to come along and stoke my fears all over again with Contagion, a disease thriller (I pray that doesn't become an actual genre) that promises to be grounded and well-researched enough to scare me into replacing my wardrobe with a Hazmat suit. The project has been coalescing for a few months, and now The Hollywood Reporter has revealed that Mr. Jules Asner's globe-trotting film will directly confront recent history by shooting in Hong Kong, the epicenter of the 2003 SARS epidemic from which Contagion takes its cues.
Soderbergh also expressed his hopes of bringing the production to mainland China, but the film will likely be too critical of the government's response to the story's fictional pandemic to even play in Chinese movie theaters, let alone be granted permission to brazenly roll into Guangdong with the thunder of a huge Hollywood production. That being said, the mere fact that the Soderbergh has committed to shooting on location in Hong Kong and tapping into a perilous chapter of recent history suggests that the film will be tonally harsh and matter-of-fact, despite dramatizing typical scenes like the classic "Patient Zero boards an airplane to America."
The film is already expected to be shooting in locales as diverse and far-flung as Minneapolis, Brazil, and Dubai, ensuring that no corner of the globe will be spared from the organ-destroying terror. And given its star-studded ensemble cast that includes Jude Law, Marion Cotillard, Matt Damon, Kate Winslet, and now Josie Ho, expect to see some very ugly things to happen to some very pretty people. Inevitable comparisons to Traffic may be premature, but with every detail we learn about the project they sound more deserved. Contagion is slated to send me into a fit of hypochondria in October of 2011.