The Thing

   Director: Matthijs van Heijningen Jr, Universal Pictures, Rated MA, 103 mins

Dutch director Matthijs van Heijningen, in his first feature film, has made an awesome prequel to legendary director John Carpenter’s 1982 sci-fi cult classic by crafting a more engrossing and horrifying thriller than the original as well as through the inclusion of some frightening special effects.
   In Heijningen’s movie the story takes place at a Norwegian scientific facility in the Antarctic (instead of an American base) where its scientists discover a spacecraft buried in the snow together with an unknown creature frozen within a huge block of ice which is then transported to the Norwegian base.
The Thing
   To assist the Norwegians in their discovery, a group of American scientists are brought to the base including Dr Sander Halvorson (Ulrich Thomsen - Season of the Witch), palaeontologist Kate Lloyd (Mary Elizabeth Winstead - Death Proof) and helicopter pilot Sam Carter (Aussie actor Joel Edgerton - Animal Kingdom).
   Before the scientists have an opportunity to study their finding the alien creature escapes and all hell breaks loose as it begins to eliminate its captors by subsuming itself into each human form.
   In one of the key sequences in the Carpenter storyline, the identification method for determining whether a person has not been taken over by the alien creature is to check their blood sample’s reaction to fire - where there is no reaction the creature is seen physically breaking out of its human form.
   In the Heijningen version Kate checks each man’s fillings as the alien is unable to replicate inanimate objects, triggering the same horrifying result.
   And, as shown in the concluding scenes it is ultimately distrust and paranoia that causes so much death and destruction.
   Heijningen (like Carpenter) has positioned his surreal story amidst the spectacular snowbound setting of Antarctica and put together a well assembled cast including some good performances from Winstead as the fearless Kate and Edgerton as the supportive Sam.
   In a number of ways the 2011 version of The Thing is more intriguing, with some similarities to the original and plenty to thrill sci-fi horror fans and others alike-the alternative being to go back to The Thing in the past.
VIC'S VERDICT:       3 ½ Rubber Stamps


Contagion

      Director: Steven Soderbergh, Warner Bros, Rated M, 106 mins

At first glance Contagion is not your average disaster movie but a masterfully directed, engrossing thriller from academy award winning filmmaker Steven Soderbergh (Traffic) who has adapted Scott Burns’s well-written script of the start of a highly contagious pandemic disease and its impact on a number of cities especially its victims.
   The opening scenes show Beth Emhoff (Gwyneth Paltrow) returning home to the US after a business trip to Hong Kong where she begins to have fits and is rushed to hospital by her immune husband Mitch (Matt Damon), dying suddenly from a seizure.
Contagion
   Her death coincides with similar cases in Hong Kong and London and it is not long before the US Centre for Disease Control (CDC) and the World Health Organisation (WHO) are called in to take action.
   The CDC’s efforts are led by Dr Ellis Cheever (Laurence Fishburne), ably assisted by Dr Erin Mears (Kate Winslet) while the WHO representative is Dr Leonora Orantes (Marion Cotillard) who heads to Hong Kong to investigate the source of the outbreak.
   At the same time with the disease spreading and killing thousands, Doctors Ally Hextall (Jennifer Ehle) and Ian Sussman (Elliott Gould) are racing to find a cure which is not helped by the annoying character of Alan Krumiede (Jude Law) who is behaving like a nuisance in promoting his own solution.
   As the disease spreads around the world, Soderbergh shows how ordinary people are struggling to survive in a society that is falling part.
   Besides assembling a star-studded cast (Cotillard, Damon, Fishburne, Law, Paltrow and Winslet) to portray his key roles, Soderbergh has neither over-dramatised nor sensationalised his characters thereby adding a great deal of realism to his thought provoking storyline, making sure that this is one Contagion worth catching.
VIC'S VERDICT:       4 Rubber Stamps

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