With master storyteller Steven Soderbergh at the helm, the 2011 pandemic movie ‘Contagion’ features a stellar ensemble to actualize its pastiche narrative. After a mysterious virus outbreak, the death toll begins to rise. Healthcare professionals try to track down the inception of the virus. In the post-COVID world, the movie certainly hits differently. The tense score and Soderbergh’s brand of multi-strand storytelling keep the pace alive amidst its death count. However, you may wonder what happens to Dr. Mears, the Atlanta officer who goes to Minnesota. Also, does Mitch Emhoff die at the end of the movie? Let us probe further. SPOILERS AHEAD.
Does Mitch Emhoff Die?
Mitch Emhoff (Matt Damon) is by no means the sole protagonist of the movie. Although, as the husband of Beth Emhoff (Gwyneth Paltrow), the Index patient of the outbreak, Mitch Emhoff’s character holds some weight in the story. Matt Damon essays the role with an innate stoicism. In the end, Mitch’s sobbing tears make the story reach its catharsis. However, more than Mitch, Beth lies at the story’s center. Beth Emhoff went to Hong Kong on a business trip and ended up at the same restaurant where the infected pig was delivered. For the sake of the camera, Beth shook hands with the sous chef and came in contact with the virus.
On her way back from Hong Kong to Minneapolis, Beth decided to book a flight with a five-hour layover in Chicago to meet her former flame, Jon Neal. Beth infected more than enough people in the sprawling journey from Hong Kong to Chicago to Minneapolis. On the fourth day of the chronology of the outbreak, Beth falls sick. She dies shortly after in the hospital, and the doctor suggests to Mitch that maybe encephalitis or meningitis caused the death. Meanwhile, Mitch kept Clark, his stepson, in the care of Carrie Anne, and Clark also caught the bug.
By the time Mitch reaches Clark, the latter has stopped breathing. After the two deaths in a row, the doctors quarantine Mitch. Meanwhile, a waiter from Hong Kong collapses in a public bus, causing fear among the locals. Mitch’s daughter, Jory, arrives at the hospital to meet her father. They cannot come into contact since she may catch the disease. However, Mitch seems to have immunity from the virus – and he survives.
However, he struggles to cope with the loss of his wife. Knowing about her wife’s reconnection with past lover Jon Neal from Mears does not help him much. Mitch and Jory reach home after Mitch’s quarantine period at the hospital – although Mitch does not let Jory mingle with her boyfriend, Andrew. One hundred thirty-five days after the breakout – when life is finding pace again – Mitch lets Jory and Andrew have a prom night at home. He cries in the kitchen looking at the photo of Beth, but he is happy that Jory is moving on with her life.
Does Dr. Erin Mears Die?
Dr. Erin Mears (Kate Winslet), an Epidemic Intelligence Service officer, is one of the first martyrs of the epidemic. Following the orders of Dr. Cheever at the CDC, Dr. Erin Mears heads to Minneapolis, Minnesota, the hometown of Beth. She tracks down all the people who came in contact with Beth, despite the careless dismissals of local health officers. When cases begin to rise, people understand the gravity of the situation. After coming in contact with Beth’s driver, Dr. Mears also catches the virus. Dr. Cheever feels that he is responsible for Mears and seeks to bring her home earnestly.
He meets a military official within CDC to help Mears get the plane with the isolation pod. However, the bureaucracy entails that Mears cannot have the aircraft due to a member of Congress, whose health the government prioritizes. With this conundrum, Mears cannot make it back home; she gets a bed in the quarantine center, the local stadium. While a fellow health officer tells her they are about to make a different ward for healthcare professionals at the university, Mears does not give him the time. She passes away shortly after, delineating a discord early in the story.
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