Would That Be Product Un-Placement? 

It’s disconcerting enough to see the (all too) realistic depiction of social breakdown, martial law, etc. that follow in the wake of a nightmarish global health epidemic.

However, when the one of the cities so portrayed is Minneapolis . . . it’s almost literally a little too close to home.

Story Arc

If you didn’t know — and I’m not giving away anything by saying — “Contagion” traces the wildfire-like transmission of a deadly virus from Southeast Asia to various cities worldwide.

Starting with Minneapolis!

In fact, in one especially intense scene, authorities demand to know where an infected government worker is — Now! — and he responds that he’s “on a city bus near Lake and Lyndale.”

Minutes later, a cavalcade of emergency vehicles and health workers descend on the bus to quarantine the sick man — but it’s already too late.

How’s that for local flavor?

In another scene, the cavernous Minneapolis Armory (or a convincing facsimile of it) does double-duty as a potential triage center in the epidemic’s early stages (“This facility will work fine.  Now, find me three more just like it.”) 

Too Vivid?

Thankfully, the scenes of a local grocery being looted bore no telltale signs of a “Byerly’s” or “Rainbow.”

In fact, it’s the first Hollywood movie I can recall in years where nary a famous soft drink or cereal passed near a star’s lips.

Call that “product un-placement.”

Meanwhile, it was a relief that the abandoned, garbage-strewn suburban streets shown in the movie’s later stages looked generic, rather than recognizable as any actual, local Twin Cities neighborhoods (like, say, Linden Hills).

A Few Slip-Up’s, Too (“Phew!”)

Perhaps the movie’s only real factual slip-up — at least concerning any non-medical details that I could verify — had to do with the population of each affected city.

So, San Francisco and Minneapolis’ populations were both given as about 3 million.

In fact, while the Twin Cities’ total population is about 2.5 million, the city of Minneapolis is a surprisingly small 350,000 or so.

The equivalent numbers for San Francisco and the Bay Area are about 750,000 and 8 million, respectively.

At least for me, these minor gaffes helped puncture — just a little — Contagion’s otherwise all-too-realistic, nightmarish quality.

Given how credible the movie seemed otherwise . . . that came as a relief.

P.S.:  The movie’s terrific, all-star cast includes Matt Damon and Gwyneth Paltrow (as the fictional Minneapolitans); Lawrence Fishburne; Kate Winslet; Marion Cotillard; and Jude Law — plus comedian Demetri Martin, in a small but memorable role.

About the author

Ross Kaplan has 19+ years experience selling real estate all over the Twin Cities. He is also a 12-time consecutive "Super Real Estate Agent," as determined by Mpls. - St. Paul Magazine and Twin Cities Business Magazine. Prior to becoming a Realtor, Ross was an attorney (corporate law), CPA, and entrepreneur. He holds an economics degree from Stanford.
1 Response
  1. Jim

    Are you aware that the writer of the film is Scott Z. Burns, a former Minneapolitan who grew up in Golden Valley? He started his career working as a copywriter for an ad firm in Chicago. He then moved to LA and was part of the team that brought us the “Got Milk” ad campaign. He also worked on the global warming film put out by Al Gore.

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