Fatal Contact: Bird Flu in America

Film
Ill communication Richardson's warnings prove moot.
Ill communication Richardson’s warnings prove moot.

Time Out says

For nondriving New Yorkers, high gas prices can seem like an abstract problem. But if coffee went for $19 a pound, anarchy would follow. That chilling prospect is just one of the ancillary effects of the pandemic in Fatal Contact, a disease-of-the-millenium movie that alternately feels like a Stephen King adaptation and a cautionary New Yorker article.

Joely Richardson stars as Iris Varnack, a government scientist whose warnings about avian flu infecting humans are ignored until it’s too late—i.e., until after a businessman returning from China brings the bug back to Richmond, infecting fellow passengers from a zillion countries on the flight home. Spewing platitudes about “continuity of leadership,” the governor of Virginia (Scott Cohen) quickly seals himself in a Plexiglas bunker, proving that he never read local boy Edgar Allan Poe’s “Masque of the Red Death” in high school.

A fair amount of data is thrown around, but in the interest of accessibility, social disorder gets more screen time than the disease itself: Viewers are soon treated to chilling images of food riots, landfills loaded with corpses and Penn Station serving as a giant triage clinic (in a neat visual crib from Gone with the Wind).

Movies about global warming may scare people into buying hybrid cars, but avian flu is a threat viewers can’t do the smallest thing about. The only possible message is, If this happens, we’re really screwed! Or, in the case of a vaccine that presents false hope, Never trust the French!-—Andrew Johnston

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