Pandemic comes to DVD

Monday, 09 May 2011 10:42

“Pandemic” showcases the potentially devastating effects of a deadly virus outbreak in Japan. What apparently begins as a small-scale avian flu outbreak in a village rapidly expands to consume the entire country in a spiralling nightmare of fear, death and destruction. The race is on to contain the effects of and isolate the killer bug, and then find a cure before millions succumb.

The movie focuses on the efforts of WHO medical officer Eiko (Rei Dan) to educate others, tend to the infected and find a vaccine. She is joined by Dr. Tsuyoshi (Satoshi Tsumabuki – “Dororor”) who is based in City Hospital, the investigation team’s base of operations. The two characters are old friends but their differing approaches to medical care cause them to clash when faced with such a desperate race against time.

Pandemic comes to DVD“Pandemic” has some good qualities. For starters, director Takahisa Zeze gets the balance more or less right between mass-infection and focusing on the plight of key characters.

Most of the film concentrates on the doctors in the hospital and a few of their many victims, but every so often it zooms out to show us the bigger picture. These scenes are typically depicted as unending queues of angry and desperately sick people trying to get medical attention, villages with hundreds of corpses slumped in the dirt, or more dislocated shots of cities shrouded in smoke, the result of wide-scale panic and civil unrest.

In terms of a socio-political dimension to the piece, there is some minor coverage of the issues. For example, the owner of the battery chicken farm at the centre of the crisis is vilified by the public and wracked with guilt. There is some talk of how supplies of Tamiflu are not large enough to vaccinate every possible victim, and therefore have to be handed out on a priority basis (politicians, doctors, nurses and scientists first, for example).

The dissemination of information is also critical; education of the public is paramount but without stirring up chaos and panic in the process. Finally, how and when to quarantine areas is also a touchy subject. Extend the perimeter too far and you risk upsetting as yet unaffected people. Limit it too closely to the centres of infection and you risk letting the outbreak spread uncontrollably.

Sadly, the film gets a fair amount wrong. For starters, it never lives up to its over-hyped tagline: ‘The end of the world is near’. It starts very briskly and clearly illustrates the alarming pace with which a viral outbreak can spread, and that it can infect and kill a man within a couple of days.

It also shows the horrific effects of the virus on individuals – uncontrollable bleeding internally and externally, coughing, dizziness and violent muscle spasms. Sadly this early excitement (for want of a better word) is all but snuffed out by the half-way point, and the terrifying effect is diminished.

There is little of the edgy volatility seen in the better movies or TV shows of this genre or ones like it, such as “The Towering Inferno”, “28 Weeks Later” or the John Duttine version of The Day of the Triffids. In addition, the running time is far too flabby at 138 minutes given the amount of narrative repetition.

There is also far too much sentimentality, not least between the two main characters. Of course you need some emotion in a movie like this, but Zeze layers it on thick and it ends up smothering the film. In terms of production values, the make-up special effects are excellent, but some of the CGI-enhanced scenes of city devastation are unconvincing and too fleeting, and therefore feel out of place.

The only extra on the disc is a trailer. A special effects featurette or a documentary of some sort on real virus outbreaks would have bolstered the release.

“Pandemic” (2009) is out now, courtesy of MVM. The main feature has a running time of 138 minutes approx, carries a ‘15’ certificate and retails for £15.99, or less from www.culttvstore.com

Last modified on Thursday, 10 May 2012 16:37

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