• JFS the Reviewer

Outbreak 25th Anniversary review



Background:


Outbreak was a film made by Warner Bros. and was released on March 10, 1995. The film was directed by Wolfgang Petersen. Wolfgang had directed films such as Das Boot (1981), The NeverEnding Story (1984), Enemy Mine (1985), In the Line of Fire (1993), Air Force One (1997), the Perfect Storm (2000), Troy (2004), Poseidon (2006), and his last film, Vier Gegen die Bank (2016). The film was produced by Gail Katz, Arnold Kopelson, Anne Kopelson, and Wolfgang Petersen.


The screenplay was made by Laurence Dworet and Robert Roy Pool. The film is also based on “The Hot Zone” by Richard Preston.


The film stars Dustin Hoffman, Rene Russo, Morgan Freeman, Donald Sutherland, Kevin Spacy, and Cuba Gooding Jr.


The film had a budget of 50 million dollars, with its opening weekend earning over 13 million dollars. It spent three weeks number one before the movie, Tommy Boy, was released. The film grossed 67 million domestically and 122 million internationally. The film in total made about 189.8 million dollars and was a successful film.


It also should be noted that during the release of the film, the real-life outbreak of the Ebola virus was occurring in Zaire.


Story:


The film revolves around Dustin Hoffman’s character, Colonel Sam Daniels. Sam is a medical doctor and a USAMRIID (United States Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases) virologist, that was sent to Zaire to investigate an outbreak in a village. Upon arrival, they discovered many of the people in the village are dead from an unknown virus that infected the people through bodily fluids. Once they returned to the United States, they discovered what killed the people is a brand-new virus that they have never encountered before.


Sam tries warning Morgan Freeman’s character, Brigadier General Billy Ford, of the danger of this new virus and how they need to take extreme precautions. However, Billy refuses to do what his friend wants and believes the virus was contained in the village. It is later revealed in the film that Billy and Donald Sutherland’s character, Major General Donald "Donnie" McClintock, were, in fact, aware of the virus. And had contained it years ago in order to keep their involvement with it a secret.


Sam’s warnings go unheard until a monkey, which carried the virus was brought from Africa to the United States. The virus soon infects a small town rapidly and it isn’t long until its citizens begin to die. Sam and his team head to the town to try to not only stop the virus but hopefully find the original host in order to create a vaccine to help save the people before they all die.


I enjoyed the story of the film because of how it keeps you in suspense with what is going on. From the moment we are introduced to the virus, to it mutating so it can become airborne, to the decision the military takes in order to quarantine the town to contain the virus, and how far our main character will go to save the people. It also helps remind us of the dangers of these viruses and how quickly they can spread if we are not careful. The film didn’t need to rely on monsters, demons, zombies, or something that seems unlikely to happen in our lives.


It’s something you can’t see, and you are unaware it has entered your body until you get sick.

When it comes to films involving a dangerous illness and how serious it can affect the world, they are very enjoyable to watch. It shows you far a pandemic can make people go crazy. From hoarding their homes with so much food, water, and cleaning supplies. How it will make people stay at home and not want to go out.


It can have a serious effect on the life of everyday people. Something I’m sure many people during the Coronavirus, SARS, and Ebola outbreaks.


Now, are there any flaws with the story of the film? I do have an issue with the fact that we the generic villain who wants to keep their past a secret, while at the same time they believe they are the good guys in the film. It has been done to death in the 80s and the 90s. It also doesn’t help that early in the film you can figure out Morgan Freeman and Donald Sutherland’s characters have a connection from the virus earlier in the film.


Indicating that they will do whatever it takes to keep their past a secret. Of course, these are just minor problems and don’t take away how realistic the situation would be if an outbreak occurred in a small town.


Characters:


Dustin Hoffman’s portrayal was a bit of a mixed bag for me. On one hand, he did a good job portraying a medical doctor and when it came to explaining the medical parts for the film. However, there were times when his character would yell, would get frustrated, and not act as calm as he should.


Now, I understand why he wouldn’t be, but at the same time as the one leading the team during this pandemic, I would figure the main character would make sure to keep his cool. Otherwise, his teammates might end up losing it as well. However, he didn’t do a bad job and I enjoy the parts of his character where he is calm.


Rene Russo plays the ex-wife of Hoffman’s character. Rene’s character, Roberta, in the beginning of the film I didn’t like her very much since she dismissed Sam’s warnings about the virus and didn’t take him seriously. It isn’t until she found out about people getting sick from the virus that she starts becoming a likable character, especially when she is trying to help Sam. She ends up becoming his main reason to want to find the cure when she becomes infected and it soon becomes a race to save her before it is too late.


Morgan Freeman’s character, right off the bat I knew he would be the ploy to stop Sam. To keep him from learning more about the virus and discover his friend’s connection to it. Once Morgan’s character finds out the virus is now airborne, we do see him beginning to let Sam help. We see him have Sam take over and try to find a cure, while at the same time we see Morgan’s character struggling with his moral code.


He wants to help the people and save their lives, but we see him also wanting to keep his involvement with the virus buried. This is where Donald Sutherland’s character comes into play. Sutherland’s character is obvious in what he wants to do. He wants to keep their past buried, even if it means killing innocent lives.


Sutherland’s character keeps pressuring Morgan’s character to keep Sam in the dark. Keep him from getting involved and even tries having him arrested. Once Sam finds the host, we see Sutherland doing all he can to stop him. Even if it means trying to kill him and the host that could save the town.


Sutherland’s character is generic of a villain as we have seen in the 80s and 90s. However, the way he portrays the character, you can’t help but enjoy his performance. All while waiting for him to get what is coming to him.


Cuban Gooding Jr.’s role in the film is one of the supporting characters. At least, in the first half of the film. Cuban’s character has joined the team and wants to prove himself to Dustin Hoffman’s character. After panicking in the village during the first act of the film, he starts to understand the dangers of the job and how he needs to be ready for it. It isn’t until we get to the second and third act where he gets more involved in the film.


With his character being part of the team to go to the town to help the people. Then later, helps Hoffman’s character find the host and then get him back to the town to make a vaccine. I enjoyed Cuban’s performance and how his character gets developed as the film goes on. And how a year later, he would go on to be in the movie Jerry Maguire, which helps him win an Oscar.


Setting and tone:


The main setting of the film is focused on the town where the virus outbreak occurs. The town didn’t look fake and didn’t look like it was done in a set. Of course, there are towns where one place they are at did look like it was made for a scene. But the rest looked like a normal town.


This was good to keep them from going around to too many places, which they end up doing later in the film. But most of the time is in the town where you can feel the pressure our characters are in. Mostly because they are in a town where everyone appeared close to one another, their medical doctors can’t handle a pandemic, and how quickly people can get sick. It also feels realistic of what would happen if a town does end up getting a virus outbreak and what the military does in the film is what I would imagine they would do in real life.


Keep the town closed off, keep the people from escaping, the people getting mad that they aren’t being told of what is happening, and the outside world unaware of the outbreak.


Final thoughts


Outbreak is a good medical disaster film where it keeps you in suspense of what is happening. Showing you how far the government will go in order to contain the spread of a deadly, contagious disease that threatens the lives of millions. It keeps you in suspense of what is happening and how we need to be careful. How if there is a threat of a pandemic, we need to take it seriously and take precautions.


It isn’t a perfect film, mind you. It does have its flaws, especially when our main villain does all he can to keep his sins a secret. However, it is still an enjoyable film and one I recommend watching. Just don’t have your kids see it though.


This film does contain deaths and it is not suitable for children. For teenagers, yes, it is fine for them to see it. But for kids at a young age, no.

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