“It’s like Traffic, but with a disease instead of drugs.”
Similar to director Steven Soderbergh’s other ensemble film portraying the far-reaching effects of an epidemic,
The result is a voyeuristic relationship with the characters that exists the same way one may watch ants scurry after their hill is kicked – You’re too busy watching them deal with it all to want to step inside their heads. Damon’s character seems to be the only one really tethered by emotion, as the rest of the cast seems to act out of dutiful obligation. The fact that five medical professionals are followed over the course of the outbreak puts the film in danger of becoming myopic in the same way the natural analog Outbreak was, but it never happens. The character investigations, again, with the exception of Damon are superficial enough and spiked with enough gravity and purpose that it makes for a compelling spectacle, but make no mistake: you’re here to watch these people do their jobs.
The fact that the film runs at only 105 minutes and still manages to address a six-month outbreak and still touch upon so many representative lives is a testament to efficiency in storytelling: calculated, but certainly not inhumane. At the end of the film you feel closer to the outbreak than you do the characters, which is an unnatural feeling, but Soderbergh’s intention all along.