The Black Death at jet speed. This movie has a lot of big name actors, which is good because the screenwriters didn’t spend any time on character arcs. We get star personas instead of characters (except for Jennifer Ehle, who actually creates a character out of nothing and steals the picture).  In the absence of the usual hokey stories, the movie plays more like a documentary than a disaster film. The science seems real (and the scientific advisers seem pleased to have their names associated with the film, not always the case in the past). Details of social breakdown (first responders who don’t respond, mass burials, a newfound interest in personal guns) seem all too real, perhaps even understated. Attention Republicans — the government, scientists and the UN  are portrayed as heroes.  Journalists — not so much.

In the past few years, we have had epidemics of illnesses that were highly contagious but not virulent (H1N1), or virulent but not highly contagious (SARS) In the 1990s, there was an outbreak of a new flu virus that was both highly contagious and virulent, but which was contained in a relatively unpopulated area (rural Malaysia). We’re not going to be that lucky forever.

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