'Contagion's' Matt Damon: What Critics Say About His Performance

 

Matt Damon stars as Mitch in Contagion, the thriller by director Steve Sondbergh that opens Friday in theaters. He plays an everyman dealing with the the ramifications of the loss of his wife (played by Gwyneth Paltrow), who is patient zero.

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Critics are widely praising the movie, and Damon's performance is no exception.

"The common man is represented by Damon's Mitch, who witnesses at close range the collapse of the social order and the rise of lawlessness," writes Todd McCarthy in The Hollywood Reporter, adding that he appears both "bereft and desperate" in the film.

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However, he feels the “heart of the movie rests with the medical professionals played by Kate Winslet, Jennifer Ehle and Laurence Fishburne, individuals placed on the anvil of the crisis whose performance under pressure will likely tell the tale.”

The New Yorker's David Denby pegs a critical movie moment on Damon's performance.

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"Contagion mostly rushes ahead, so when it slows a bit the effect is devastating, as in a heartbreaking scene in which Damon’s character can’t take in the fact that his wife is gone. The camera just stares, and Damon has a great moment," he writes.

The New York Times' Manohla Dargis says the actor -- who recently shaved his head for his next role in Elysium -- has a "small, crucial, sympathetic performance" in the movie.

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In the Los Angeles Times, Kenneth Turan calls Damon "the best Everyman in the business" showing that he and his family are "just regular folks from Minneapolis, for heaven's sake, they're not prepared for what's about to hit them."

He says of the cast -- Damon, Fishburne, Paltrow, Winslet, Jude Law and Marion Cotillard -- "Some of their characters will live, some will die, and neither the virus nor the filmmakers care."
 

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