Outbreak Vs. Contagion: Critical Analysis

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The movie Outbreak takes place 30 years in the past in Africa, American doctors come to a small village that appears to have been infected by a disease. The doctors witness many people dying and they promise to help the people out and send help, but instead they sent an airplane that bombed the whole village, in hopes of containing the deadly illness. This part of the movie made me wonder the reality of this concept. It made me think about if the government really hides information like this to the people and disposes of information, so no one has knowledge about it. The movie then takes place in the present days. 

The main characters are a recently divorced couple Army doctor, Sam Daniels and Dr. Robby Keough. I think that by introducing as with a newly divorced couple allows for the movie watchers to have a feel for a romantic drama, because as the movie goes on, it is shown that the couple still loves each other despite their divorce. As we are introduced to the main characters of the film, we are simultaneously shown how the virus, Motaba, is introduced to America. An African monkey was illegally brought into America, by an illegal wildlife smuggler, which unfortunately was infected by the virus. This shows the likelihood of this happening in real life, today many smugglers bring in animals that are meant to be in the wild, and due to this, many people get infected with sickness, because they are exposed to illegal wildlife that they have no knowledge of any sickness they may potentially be infected with. The smuggler was not able to sell the monkey for profit at the pet shop, so he releases the infected monkey into the forest.

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 The first person infected was the pet shop owner when he was scratched by the monkey. The smuggler was also infected by the monkey. He was in a flight to Boston, he started to show symptoms, and as he was greeted by his girlfriend they kiss, which then leads to her being infected. The pet owner that was infected back in California was hospitalized because he was seizing up and having high fever. His blood was taken and as a scientist was centrifuging his blood, the vile breaks, which then infects the scientist. The scientist carries on with his life, which he ends up infecting many people in a movie theater. A city in California and Boston were the only infected cities before military personnel were involved. As news about the disease surged, Dr. Daniels is assigned to investigate the origin of the virus. A city near Boston was put under quarantine, in hopes of containing the virus from spreading to the whole USA. As the movie progresses, we see that the military is hiding information about the disease as Dr. Daniels deals with the situation. As more people got sick, the CDC was involved, and Dr. Robby Keough was the person in charge of investigating the reports. Everyone is in a race against time to find the cure against the disease.

Overall, I really liked this movie. Although, I don’t think the reality of a city being quarantined to the extent of how it is in the movie, because nowadays people have social media and they can easily post what is happening online for other people to see. I thought the movie was chilling and it kept my attention focused the whole time. I was on my feet the whole time waiting for what it to happen next. It made me cheer the characters on, in their hopes of finding the cure for the virus as fast as possible to help the people infected.

The movie Contagion, like Outbreak, is about a virus that spreads and infects people. The movie starts off with the character of Beth Emhoff, she is a company worker that travelled to Hong Kong for business. When she came back to the states, she is very sick, that in a few days since her arrival she ends up dying from the unknown disease. Shortly after her death, a few hours to be exact, her son ends up dying from the same sickness as well. When the hospital was informed of the passing of Beth’s son, they put her husband, Mitch in isolation, as they try to figure out if he is also infected or not. In this particular scene, we are also introduced to Mitch’s daughter, Jory. Beth and her son get an autopsy done on their body and the results were sent to the CDC. The director of the CDC, Dr. Ellis Cheever, declares that there is an unknown virus that they have no knowledge of and no vaccine, as more cases all over the world shows up. 

As more cases are reported, Dr. Cheever and his team try to figure out the situation they are in. He sent Dr. Leonora Orantes, an epidemiologist, to Hong Kong to figure out the possible origin of the disease, and Dr. Erin Mears, an epidemic intelligence service officer, to figure out the transmission mode, infection rate, and set up quarantine facilities for people who are infected. Another person in Dr. Cheever’s team is, Dr. Ally Hextall, she studied the molecular formation of the virus and tried to figure out the genetic makeup of the virus. Dr. Hextall enlisted the help of Dr. Ian Sussman to help her figure out the virus. Dr. Hextall could not grow the virus, and Dr. Cheever asked her to shut down any labs that are not BSL 4. Dr. Sussman happened to work in a BSL 3 lab setting, so Dr. Hextall adviced him to stop working on the virus, but he disobeys and grows the virus regardless. As panic arises, schools and workplaces shut down, grocery stores run out of food, people start looting, and society as we know it starts to crumble down. The person responsible for the panic, is journalist, Alan Krumwiede. In his blog, he posted about how the government is hiding important information from the people. He strongly believed that the CDC and pharmaceutical companies were in cahoots with each other to make a lot of money from medication that will be produced to vaccinate against the deadly virus. He said that the CDC and the companies were “glove in glove” to make profits. As more people stayed home and kept up with his blog, many people started believing in him. He even claimed that he got infected with the virus and was cured by an over the counter drug called, Forsithia. Many people started to purchase the medicine, but as demand grew and supplies lower, chaos in stores started happening. Looting and stealing in stores and in people’s houses started to occur more, as more and more people are getting infected and dying.

I thought the movie was really good and it was nicely executed by both the director and actors. I truly believed I was living in a pandemic when I was watching the film. I like how they researched the roles of each doctors in the movie, to be able to portray the role in a realistic manner. The storyline of the movie kept the adrenaline rushing through me, in hopes that they find the source of the virus to figure out the origin of the disease, and to find a cure. Everything in the movie felt very realistic to me. It made me realize the amount of research and effort that is needed to be done in such a short amount of time, when a deadly virus is introduced to society, to find a cure. The movie also shows that each government organizations in each country must work together in a situation where a pandemic occurs in order to hurry the process of figuring out a cure and creating a vaccine fast enough to be able to vaccinate everyone in the world right away.

Outbreak vs. Contagion:

  • Which film do you believe more accurately represented a modern outbreak? Why?

The film that I believe more accurately represented a modern outbreak is Contagion, because I felt the storyline of the movie was deemed more realistic in my opinion, compared to Outbreak. In the last two minutes of the movie, the origin of the virus is revealed. A bulldozer from the company, the first victim of the virus/Beth Emhoff, works for is shown clearing land to create a building. Bats used to inhabit the trees, but now since their home is not there, they sometimes go to the building that was constructed, which is a pig pen. A bat is shown eating a banana, which drops into the pen, where a pig eats the banana. The virus cross mutates from the bat to the pig. A chef then picks out the infected pig, and as he is preparing the pig, he touches his face and encounters Beth with unwashed hands. That is how the virus was spread to her. The last few minutes of the movie is a good depiction of how infectious diseases emerge. The scenario demonstrates the connection of humans, animals, and our surroundings. I personally believe that if a modern outbreak were to occur, it would not stray very far from the movie. For example, the situation we are experiencing right now with the Coronavirus, many people are panic buying at the groceries. Many businesses and schools are shut down, due to the fear of the virus spreading even more. Many places all over the world are implementing mandatory lockdowns in order to slow down the spread of the virus to one another. Although not as many people have died due to Covid-19, almost half a million people are infected, and the virus is still infecting more people. In the movie Contagion, by the time they developed a vaccine almost 2 million people died, I have high hopes that will not be the outcome of the Coronavirus pandemic we are experiencing right now.

  • Which film do you believe more accurately represents the hypothetical response of the U.S. to a national outbreak of this severity or magnitude? Why?

The film I believe that accurately represents the hypothetical response of the U.S to a national outbreak of this severity or magnitude is Contagion. In the movie Outbreak, only a city was under quarantine to prevent the spread of the virus, as to Contagion, where it was global pandemic. As mentioned earlier, due to the current Coronavirus pandemic, Contagion seems to be a lot more realistic than Outbreak. Right now, the U.S government is using all of its resources to stop the spread of the virus in America. The CDC, WHO, the coastguards, the military, healthcare workers, country government are working hand in hand to keep everyone safe and develop a cure right away. Due to the fallout of the economy, the U.S government passed a stimulus bill, that allows people to receive aid. The U.S government issues a nationwide state of emergency, and state, local, and county government are implanting rules and guidelines for their residents to protect them from contracting the Coronavirus.

  • Which film had stronger biological/scientific principles in it? Why?

The film that had a stronger biological/scientific principal in it was Contagion. The movie conveyed the pandemic scenarios a lot more vividly than Outbreak. The reason for that is that Outbreak was released in 1995 and Contagion was released in 2011. As the years passes by, more modern ways of conducting research has been available. The fundamentals of biological science were heavily present in both films, but personally I like how it was conveyed in Contagion more, because it was demonstrated in a way that I understand it, as it was taught to me that way in school.

  • Which film more accurately represents the field of epidemiology? Why?

The film that more accurately represented the field of epidemiology is Contagion. Although Outbreak did cover the field of Epidemiology as well, I personally feel like Contagion provided more vivid examples of the steps taken by epidemiologist to figure out the cause of a disease and the trials it takes to create a vaccine for a virus. I think that the Contagion portrayed a very realistic scenario in the field of epidemiology compared to Outbreak. It was more factual in the process and involved more healthcare workers and public health workers were in control figuring out the problem, whereas in Outbreak, it felt very military controlled.


  1. Contagion, Directed by Steven Soderbergh, Participant Media and Imagenation Abu Dhabi, 2011
  2. Outbreak, Directed by Wolfgang Petersen, Punch Productions, inc., 1995
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Outbreak vs. Contagion: Critical Analysis. (2022, Apr 29). Retrieved from https://papersowl.com/examples/outbreak-vs-contagion-critical-analysis/