Hollywood does have issues about making films like "Outbreak". While the opening scenes to establish the premise are generally good, sometimes endings become a bit too predictable where the heroes put the baddies in their place. A few moments in the last third of the film also become a bit unbelievable especially in terms of how information is tracked and interpreted by the US government. Still overall, I would still rank it as one of the better films of its type.
In the late 1960's, an outbreak of a terrible virus which turns innards into cream of wheat infects native villagers along with some American soldiers in Zaire, currently the Democratic Republic of the Congo in the middle of Africa. American officials who work for the Center for Disease Control assess the situation. One of the voices in the suits is Donald Sutherland, playing Major General Donald "Donnie" McClintock. To contain the village and prevent further spread, the US government deploys an extreme method to suppress the virus.
Fast-forward to the mid-1990's. Again in Zaire, another village has also been wiped out by a virus, strangely similar to the one 30 years earlier. Colonel Sam Daniels (Dustin Hoffman), Lieutenant Colonel Casey Schuler (Kevin Spacey) and Major Salt (Cuba Gooding, Jr.) investigate what General McClintock saw there decades ago. There are no survivors except some children. During the investigation, Salt practically loses his lunch. After they leave, a small monkey is shown being captured by a trapper on the outskirts of the village. It looks like either a rhesus Old World monkey or a white-headed capuchin, a New World monkey. Neither are indigenous to Africa, but we run with it. (Rhesus monkeys reside in Asia, and white-headed capuchins reside in Central and South America.)
Back in the good old US, we had learned in an earlier somewhat melodramatic scene that Daniels had been married to one of his colleagues at the Center for Disease Control, Roberta "Robby" Keough (Rene Russo), before the recent misadventure in the Congo. Daniels desires to further investigate the virus, which appears to be unknown. However, he is stopped by his supervisor Brigadier General Billy Ford (Morgan Freeman) seemingly for illogical reasons. Turns out, Ford and McClintock made a pact to keep the knowledge about the virus and the government's "solution" a secret since the 1960's. Daniels looking into the matter might blow their cover.
On another front, the monkey ends up in a facility in San Jose, CA, via an international trading ship. A young man "Jimbo" (Patrick Dempsey) bribes some security guards to take the monkey to a pet shop. He delivers the goods, but the shop owner is disappointed: he needed a male, not a female. Jimbo decides to let the monkey go in the redwoods somewhere between San Jose and San Francisco. He then flies back to Boston, and on the flight he becomes ill and nearly infects a younger passenger. In less than two days, Jimbo, his girlfriend, the pet shop owner and members of the town of Cedar Creek, CA, are infected with the virus.
Robby learns of the epidemic and quickly flies from D.C. to Boston to examine the victims. It rings strangely of the virus Daniels had been researching. A growing epidemic is occurring in the small California town, apparently a carrier had infected people at the local movie theatre. Now the epidemic is growing, and the government quarantines the whole town. All the while, Ford and McClintock are trying to engage in damage control to prevent the others higher-ups in the US government, and ultimately the press and the public from finding out about what happened in Zaire in the 1960's.
The strongest elements of the film are the behind-the-politics about the decision-making concerning the response to the virus. This aspect carries much of the film and makes it more interesting than a straight action-disaster film, somewhat similar to Jaws in which the mayor continually fights the head of police concerning the appropriate response. The ending was a little bit weak in terms of how the good guys finally stop the baddies, meaning the people, not the virus. I think I would have liked to have seen more of a conclusion about the original events in the 1960's as a way to wrap up the story.
Generally, a good popcorn film. Kevin Spacey, as usual, delivers a fantastic performance as one of the researchers in the Center for Disease Control. Dustin Hoffman is good as the intelligent but somewhat hot-headed higher-up researcher as is Russo's performance as the more level-headed of the two. We get pieces of their backstory which sort of works. Freeman and Sutherland deliver strong supporting performances as the behind-the-scenes amoral officers bent on keeping the full truth under wraps. Maybe a one-watch, but considering how many marginal films are made every year, it's a decent one-watch.
Action / Drama / Thriller
Action / Drama / Thriller
When a disease in Africa is discovered, Colonel Sam Daniels of the United States Army Medical Research Institute for Infectious Diseases or USAMRIID, is sent to investigate. When he reports back to his superior officer General Ford and tells him that they should put out an alert on this disease but the General that since the disease is so far away and not airborne that it can't possibly reach the U.S. However, a monkey from that part of Africa was captured and brought to the U.S. and a man who works at the customs house took it and tried to sell it but when the person he tried to sell it to rejected it he released it. Later the man who arrived in Boston collapses and dies, Col. Daniels wants to look into it but General Ford denies his request so he turns to his ex-wife, who works at the Center for Disease Control or CDC to look into and they discover it's the African disease but since it kills very quickly, Col. Daniels feels that it's been contained until another outbreak!
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October 27, 2012 at 08:01 PM