Outbreak (1995)

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Outbreak (1995)

Post  BoG on Tue Mar 17, 2015 4:34 pm

Science Fiction... or more science fact?  The possibility of something like this actually happening - a lethal virus spreading quickly among the population - is almost likely according to this film, and, in theory, it's not that far out there. In very recent times, there have been scares of an Ebola outbreak outside the usual locale of Africa, in the U.S.  But, to actually wipe out most of the population - that extreme is depicted in stuff like the previous year's mini-series, The Stand, the Stephen King sci-fi/horror opus in which about 99% of the population dies.  In this film, the tension stems from the possibility of that happening - the scientists and military who combat this threat manage to contain it and only a small portion of the populace, about one town's worth, succumbs to the deadly effects. This scenario makes this film more of a realistic proposition; it's not that outlandish to envision several hundred or several thousand people dying from such a virus.
However, there are a few plot points throughout this thriller that a viewer needs to suspend a bit of disbelief for; everything happens at a pretty breakneck speed to entertain us in that pulse-pounding sort of way. A new deadly virus is detected in Africa and in the next scene is already spreading in the U.S. - thanks to a hippy dude played by Patrick Dempsey - as Dustin Hoffman, playing an intense military colonel and expert virologist, warned everyone. He warned them! He's the only one who seems to give a damn as to whether hundreds or thousands of U.S.citizens will die in the next few hours. Hoffman's performance is a bit overwrought & frenetic; he's kind of an acquired taste here - but he does add energy to the already tense proceedings. He's assisted by a youngster, played by Cuba Gooding, Jr., and experienced aide Kevin Spacey. Rene Russo plays Hoffman's ex-wife, whom he still bothers about maybe getting back together. Morgan Freeman's a general & Hoffman's boss, whom he bothers about not being honest enough or acting quickly enough. Fact is, Hoffman bothers everyone in this movie; I'm surprised no one purposely exposed him to the virus just to get rid of him.

The origins of the virus date back to 1967; that was when, in one of the better pre-credits scenes ever done, a village in Africa was vaporized by the army to destroy the micro-bug. The order was given by Donald Sutherland's character, now a 2-star general. Sutherland's the other actor who doesn't make an easy fit here. His general is way too creepy and sinister; he can't wait to explode another bomb and vaporize another town. You get the sense that, far from forcing himself into such a necessary action, this general really enjoys the prospect of blowing up a community. Didn't anyone notice in the past 30 years that he's an obvious psychotic? Otherwise, this is a fast-moving thriller, highlighted by scenes of the army, in gas masks, taking over a typical American town (very similar to scenes from the aforementioned "The Stand" the year before). JT Walsh has an uncredited cameo in one scene as a member of the White House asking to be convinced of the ultimate military action, i.e. blow up everything & everyone in the designated area. Again, the frantic race in the final half-hour to stave off destruction asks a lot from the audience, but it does deliver some thrills.  BoG's Score: 7 out of 10
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