Ever since Oscar-winner Gwyneth Paltrow started her website Goop.com to let people know about all the expensive stuff she owns, many have wanted to see her portray, say, a corpse who gets the top of her skull sawed off by coroners trying to figure out what brain-rotting disease killed her. And Gwyneth, I’m happy to say, is terrific as Patient Zero in Contagion, which is being marketed as a vast thriller about a global viral epidemic. I definitely got my money’s worth from the Paltrow head-hacking scene.
The first half, in which several of Contagion’s eight Oscar nominees (Paltrow, Matt Damon, Kate Winslet, Marion Cotillard, Jude Law, Laurence Fishburne, John Hawkes, and Elliott Gould) drop dead from a new southeast Chinese germ transmitted merely by contact, is almost as creepy as promised. You’ll want to watch Contagion through a couple of eyeholes in a large upside-down plastic garbage bag.