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Jude Law in 'Contagion'

It begins with a cough. That’s the first sound you hear, before there’s even a picture on the screen, at the start of Contagion, director Steven Soderbergh‘s gripping new thriller about the spread of a deadly infectious epidemic. The all-star cast of this ambitious ensemble drama, which opens Friday (Sept. 9), includes Brits Kate Winslet, Jude Law, and Jennifer Ehle.

That opening cough comes from Gwyneth Paltrow, whose character is waiting for a plane at an airport café in Chicago. Her cough is a harbinger of much worse to come, not only for her businesswoman character as she heads home to Minneapolis but for the world.

The virus, which medical researchers soon discover originated with bats and swine and then crossed over into the human population, quickly spreads. Contagion succeeds more as an intellectual exercise than an emotional one as it follows its what-if scenario, exploring the likely course and consequences of a fast-moving global epidemic.

Winslet plays a doctor at the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta who is dispatched to Minneapolis after Paltrow’s illness is reported to try to contain the virus before it can spread. Law is a maverick medical blogger in San Francisco who accuses the government of not telling the truth about the virus and its possible cure. And Ehle – the Pride and Prejudice star is half-English, thanks to her mother, Spider-Man‘s Rosemary Harris – portrays a medical researcher at the CDC intent on identifying the virus and developing a preventive vaccine. Others in the cast include Matt Damon, Laurence Fishburne, Marion Cotillard and Elliott Gould.

Just make sure to pop a cough drop before you see the movie.


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By Leah Rozen