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Prophetic “Contagion” now on 4K Ultra HD

Updated: Mar 1


(1) Jude Law plays Alan Krumwiede a conspiracy theorist and blogger in San Francisco, who says Forsythia can cure the deadly virus. (2) San Francisco reporter Lorriane Vasquez (Monique Gabriela Curnen) begs Krumwiede to sell her some Forsythia.

(Click an image to scroll the larger versions)


4K Ultra HD & Digital copy; 2011; PG-13 for disturbing content and some profanity; Streaming via Amazon Prime (4K), Apple TV (4K), Movies Anywhere (4K), Vudu (4K), YouTube (4K)

Best extra: “The Reality of Contagion” featurette has interviews with scientists, cast members, producers and writer Scott Z. Burns (“The Bourne Ultimatum”)


COVID-19 was declared a Public Health Emergency by the World Health Organization on January 30, 2020. Within a few short months, the world spun out of control as the virus spread across the globe. The first administered vaccine was on December 10, 2020, but the toll on human life continues – especially for the aged and vulnerable communities. As of 2024, nearly 7 million worldwide have died from the outbreak of the coronavirus.


IN THE fictional world, director Steven Soderbergh asked WHAT IF a virus wiped out 26 million people across the globe?


During the early months of COVID-19, “Contagion” became one of the hottest streamed movies on digital platforms. Soderbergh (“Traffic” and “Ocean’s Eleven”) explored the fear and progression of a deadly, worldwide epidemic in the tradition of “The Andromeda Strain” (1971) and “Outbreak” (1995).

“Contagion” is fast-moving and thought-provoking, with numerous storylines and an all-star cast – a trademark of any disaster movie – featuring Gwyneth Paltrow as victim number one. She’s a working mom, just returned home from a Hong Kong business trip, who dies within two days. Matt Damon plays her mystified husband, with Laurence Fishburne as the deputy director at the Centers for Disease Control, Kate Winslet and French actress Marion Cotillard as epidemiologists dropped into the deadly hotspots as the virus spreads across Asia, Europe and the U.S. Jude Law plays an irresponsible blogger.

(1-4) Four of the first victims were in China, London, Tokyo, and the US. (5) Medical personnel come to the attention of a very sick person in China. (6) A family grieves the loss of their brother and husband.



The 4K disc includes previous featurettes included on the original 2011 Blu-ray. These bonus features provide a wealth of scientific insight, as writer Scott Z. Burns details viral battles inside our bodies: “Viruses are amazing because they don’t behave the way other living things do. They inhabit a cell and reprogram it, then use it like a Xerox machine, make copies of themselves and proliferate throughout your body.” Technical advisor Nathan Wolfe, MA, DSC, director of Global Viral Forecasting joins the discussion: “For these guys (the virus’) evolution is happening within minutes and hours, constantly changing, and if it picks up a nasty gene and it has the capacity to spread, we’re talking about something really dangerous.”

During another bonus feature, “The Contagion Detectives,” Winslet calls her character, Dr. Erin Mears, a kind of Sherlock Holmes of the medical world. “It’s been fascinating learning a little about that world.”

(1) Known for her role in the BBC miniseries Pride and Prejudice, Jennifer Ehle plays Dr. Ally Hextall and Laurence Fishburne as Dr. Ellis Cheever, deputy director at the Centers for Disease Control. They examine the properties of the MEV-1 virus and determine its origin and model the way it enters the cells of the lung and the brain. (2) Kate Winslet plays Dr. Erin Mears, epidemiologists sent to Minneapolis to trace the virus from Beth Emhoff to the community at large. (3) The Hong Kong chef who prepared the infected pig. (4) Left, Marion Cotillard plays Dr. Leonora Orantes of the World Health Organization and a Chinese health official Sun Feng (Chin Han) questions local authorities in Hong Kong. (5) CDC officials left, Rear Admiral Lyle Haggerty (Bryan Cranston), Dr. Cheever, and Dr. Hextall hold an emergency teleconference with the WHO and CDC leaders.



First off, Soderbergh and Warner Brothers are in a sweet spot to release this thriller on 4K and, later this spring, the Ocean’s Trilogy on UHD. The director supervised the new 4K master sourced from the 4.5K Redcode RAW digital camera (1.78:1 aspect ratio, same as the 2011 Blu-ray) files. Remember Soderbergh does the majority of his own cinematography, and here he captured it in a semi-documentary style. The HDR grading is dialed just right with a rich and saturated palette with its expanded color spectrum. The 1080p disc was heavy on a greenish tint in many scenes, now that’s been readjusted to a more neutral tone. Still, it features Soderbergh’s bold colors in the scenes filmed in the U.S. to Asia, while the highlights are more controlled and detailed. Shadows are rich with deeper blacks.


Overall sharpness is excellent, up several clicks over the previous Blu-ray, showing numerous facial close-ups and wide shots of mass hysteria since the 4K provides more transparency. The video was encoded on the smaller 66GB disc and varies from 18 Megabits per second to over 100 Mbps, but averages in the low 50 Mbps range. The HDR10 peak brightness hits 999 nits and averages 122 nits.


Some reviewers are commenting that the top and bottom of the frame have a bright thin ring on the edge, and we found the issue lasts about 24 seconds during two brief scenes in the first four minutes on the 4K disc and digital. (The slight ring is visible on the bottom of the fifth screenshot with the Tokyo commuter.)

(1&2) Sun Feng and members of his Chinese village kidnap Dr. Orantes and hold her for months as leverage to get the MEV-1 vaccine. Most of the survivors in the village are children. (3) Matt Damon plays Mitch Emhoff, as he and his daughter Jory (Anna Jacoby-Heron) search for food. (4) A run for Forsythia at a drugstore. (5) Mitch and Jory try to escape to Wisconsin but the border is closed. (6) The U.S. military and FEMA hand out MRE meals at a local park.



The six-channel uncompressed DTS-HD soundtrack is ported over from the 2011 disc, which still gives composer Cliff Martinez’s (“Traffic,” “Drive”) rhythmic score the right vibe and tightness.


This one is terrifying and educational, as well as a clear warning of potential peril. Senior technical advisor Larry Brilliant, MD, MPH, president of Skoll Global Threats Fund says it so well: “I hope this movie stimulates a conversation of what preparedness means; what investments it’s going to take to make the world safe for our kids from the increased threat of epidemics.”


Bill Kelley III, High-Def Watch producer

(1&2) After weeks of trial and error, Dr. Ally Hextall may have found a vaccine for the MEV-1 virus. She'll be the first test subject. (3) The vaccine was a success and a lottery was set up to start the distribution. Birthdays on March 10 will get the vaccine first. (4) Dr. Ellis Cheever administrates the vaccine to the son of a worker at the CDC headquarters in Atlanta. (5&6) Jory and her boyfriend Andrew (Brian J. O'Donnell) finally have personal contact after the vaccine as her proud father watches.


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