Humans might be on top of the food chain, but Outbreak shows just how weak we are up here. The scary thing is that realistically we won’t be wiped out by something bigger and larger, but by something so small that we need a microscope to see it. Outbreak brings up the scary, but frighteningly realistic, premise that a virus, not unlike the Ebola Zaire virus, could wipe us out with in days.
Outbreak starts about thirty years ago in Africa, where an Ebola-like virus Motaba has almost wiped out an entire village. The doctors and survivors are told that they will be getting medical supplies soon and they cheer as a plane flies overhead and drops a package. They find out all too late that the package contains not medical supplies but something to wipe out the Motaba virus.
The U.S. Government believes that the virus has been wiped out until in present day it shows up again. An illegally shipped monkey infects one guy and director Wolfgang (Air Force One) Peterson uses an unusually entertaining (though very frightening) way of showing how the virus is passed along. Outbreak follows Col. Daniels (Dustin Hoffman) who is a specialist with viruses. He’s just getting over a divorce with Robby (Renee Russo), whom he used to work together with, but she is now going off to Atlanta to work with the Center of Disease Control.
Daniels is sent to Africa to check out the outbreak and it looks pretty serious. But, his officials, General McClintock (Donald Sutherland) and General Ford (Morgan Freeman), doubt that the outbreak can reach America. That is until a whole town is infected and dying. Daniels along with his team of specialists, his ex-wife, and a whole lot of Army grunts quarantine off the town and try to find out how to cure all these people.
While Daniels is trying to find the cure, McClintock devises a way to try to firebomb the town to get rid of the virus.
Director Wolfgang Peterson has a good eye with the camera. He has many long continuous shots that are quite interesting to watch. One of these interesting shots follows the path of a flying virus, which is absolutely amazing and frightening, when you see it. Peterson knows his timing also; he keeps the film moving along at a good pack, never really stopping to take a breath. And as far as action goes, he knows how to do that also.
Outbreak seems to have two distinct parts to it. The first part is a chilling techno-thriller. This first hour is very interesting and informative showing how the virus can be passed on, how the virus ravages the human body, and how it eventually kills a human. The second hour is more of an action film. This hour includes a thrilling helicopter chase, a race against the clock to find “the host”, and playing chicken with a C-130.
Though I thoroughly enjoyed both parts of the film, I would have like to have seen the film follow through intelligently with the first half of the film without having to go to the race against the clock formula. Worth mentioning, next to the two leads, Dustin Hoffman and Renee Russo, is Cuba Gooding Jr. Though he has a stock character, as Major Salt, he does all he can with it, and is one of the most memorable characters in the film.
There are some minor annoyances with Outbreak. One would be the thin subplot about Hoffman’s Col. Daniels and Russo’s Robby. Though it’s an OK subplot to have in there, it wasn’t quite necessary. The action ending, as mentioned before, feels somewhat tacked on. It is exciting though, but there could have been a more intelligent way to end the film.
Outbreak is a thrilling film that for the first hour uses its intellect to thrill you, then in the second hour it uses its adrenaline rush action to thrill you. Outbreak is an overall fun film to see, so don’t miss this movie.