Imagine a disease that makes the bubonic plague look like measles, and is spread in the air like a common cold: so deadly, so rapacious that within a matter of days a sub-continent the size of America is consumed. It's rather too easy to see the film as a metaphor for AIDS panic in the same way that '50s alien B-movies mirrored fears of the Red Menace: viruses as deadly as the one in the film already exist, and apocalyptic non-fiction best-sellers like Laurie Garrett's The Coming Plague have already softened up audiences for a film that its makers have touted as a Jaws for the '90s. Petersen's thriller does have its moments, most of them in the first half, which shows the painstaking methods by which such viral monsters are tracked and identified, and touches on the ethical problems presented by military intelligence and germ warfare, represented here by Sutherland's beribboned baddie, Gen McClintock. It's a pity, then, that the second half degenerates somewhat into a barely credible rescue mission involving dinky Hoffman and his estranged wife Russo. Entertaining, but not fatally attractive.