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.
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.”)
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.