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Monday, 23 October 2017

Retro Review: Outbreak (1995)

Cast: Dustin Hoffman, Rene Russo, Morgan Freeman, Cuba Gooding Jr, Donald Sutherland, Kevin Spacey, Patrick Dempsey
Genre: Disaster Movie
Worldwide Box Office Gross: over $122 million 

Plot: Extreme measures are necessary to contain an epidemic of a deadly airborne virus. But how extreme, exactly?

'Fairly Routine & Sound Thriller That Should Have Been Far More Potent' 

In the 1960s, a deadly virus known as Motaba is discovered in Zaire that wipes out an entire village in 24 hours. 30 years later, Colonel Sam Daniels, an expert in contagious diseases is called in when the same virus re-emerges in Africa after learning that a monkey has been carrying the virus and it has quickly spread from one person to another, despite orders from General Billy Ford to stay away from the site. 

Much like with Sphere, Outbreak is a film that relies less on Dustin Hoffman's acting performances and moreso on the action setpieces and scenes, although still, it took his performance to make it slightly worthwhile and that it does feel as though Wolfgang Peterson didn't go all out to turn Outbreak into a truly memorable film. I personally thought that Sphere had, what was conceivably and marginally the better cast in Hoffman, Sharon Stone and Samuel L.Jackson - yet in Outbreak, the narrative was a tad more engaging than the former. As a whole, both are fairly even. 

The scenes with Patrick Dempsey as a pet owner, who ends up being contaminated & later passes on the disease, are annoying and some of the other scenes felt a bit too long in the tooth and the story, as efficiently told as it was & in grave detail, needed to have a little bit more potency and an edge. 

Later preceded by Contagion, Outbreak, in contrast, is slightly more mild and lighter in tonality and approaches the subject matter and the story as a less intense affair. It does have its moments such as when the characters spring into action and the devastating effects of the virus take effect, but these remain few. Honestly, the consistency and accuracy of the facts when it comes to the dramatised depiction of the events is not a big deal to me. Alas, I take it with a pinch of salt. 

Known for playing reserved roles, whilst he has delivered better in other films, here Dustin Hoffman is on fire and delivers the best performance out of the main 6 of himself, Russo, Morgan Freeman, Kevin Spacey, Donald Sutherland and Cuba Gooding Jr. With Harrison Ford as the initial first choice as Colonel Sam Daniels, Hoffman goes and acts out of his range with efficiency and conviction. He hasn't appeared in many movies such as this, but with this one and Marathon Man, he comes across as purposeful and impassionate & he shows how adept he can also be at the set pieces. Sam remains unfazed by the challenge he has taken on & doggedly fights on until the matter is fully resolved. Kevin Spacey and Cuba Gooding Jr were sound and effective & Donald Sutherland rounds up the main cast as the heartless bad guy. Sadly, Rene Russo had little impact on the film and thus far, her character & Sam's ex-wife, Robby was more of an afterthought. But on a whole, the acting is still good and it doesn't detract from the movie's aim, which is how to respond to a life-threatening situation & global pandemic where the stakes are at an all-time high.

Final Verdict:

With a competent cast and star turn by Dustin Hoffman, with Cuba Gooding Jr not too far behind, Outbreak is a fairly routine but sound and solid thriller, which is also a little rudimentary in terms of suspense and the story should have been more hard-hitting. Therefore, I do think that Outbreak did play things a little too safe for its own good and Wolfgang Peterson never really took full advantage of the premise. 

As a Dustin Hoffman film, this is by no means as grand and amazing as Rain Man, Tootsie, Midnight Cowboy, insofar as performances go but it is almost on par with Sphere, especially as a movie. As in it is entertaining, undemanding and adequate at best, whilst it is mildly enjoyable & well-crafted. 

It's a shame, therefore, that Outbreak needed to have a bit more pizazz to really liven things up. 


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