A must-see, frighteningly real medical/military thriller
Daniel Jolley | Shelby, North Carolina USA | 01/13/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Outbreak is one of the best, most absorbing, most impressive films I've seen in a long, long time. It is based on a threat more frightening than nuclear war, stars the best actors and actresses Hollywood has to offer, features tons of heart-pumping, exhilarating action, and falls squarely in the category of "blew me away." Man, that Dustin Hoffman can act; I don't believe I've ever fully appreciated the man's acting skills before. Then you have Morgan Freeman, for my money the best actor working today; I'm used to Freeman being squarely on the side of good vs. evil, and I wanted to slap him many times as I was watching this film, but the man does incredible work. Donald Sutherland plays his rather inhuman role perfectly, Rene Russo lights up the screen, Cuba Gooding, Jr., supplies both humor and heroism of the noblest kind, and Kevin Spacey shines in a co-starring role. When Kevin Spacey is in your film but is not the bonafide star of the whole thing, you know you're looking at some kind of special movie. As an animal lover, I also have to praise the animals that performed so well in this film, especially the poor little monkey who helps start a national and potentially global crisis through no fault of his own.You have to respect viruses. These things are the killer sharks of the microscopic world, insidious, darn near indestructible little buggers who destroy every cell in their path. They don't clock out after eight hours or nap away afternoon breaks; these things never stop or rest. The subject of Outbreak is a very special virus borne in the wilds of Africa, an unmatched destructive force that can kill a man (in the most horrible of ways) in a matter of hours. It's like nothing ever seen before - well, actually, it was seen in 1967, but the powers that be took their little secret home with them in a vial and firebombed all the evidence of its existence (along with a significant number of innocent human beings). Now, the virus is back; not only is it back, it is in America - brought to these shores in the form of a poor little monkey taken from its home and illegally smuggled into this country. Our government and in particular our military faces an invisible enemy that can destroy the nation and everyone in it in a matter of days. If and when such a virus outbreak does take place here, let us all fervently hope that our government performs much better than they do in this movie.Dustin Hoffman plays Col. Sam Daniels of the USAMRIID, a noble man who did not forget his Hippocratic Oath when he became an army officer. He and his crew, including Major Schuler (Kevin Spacey) and new team member Major Salt (Cuba Gooding, Jr.), in conjunction with Daniels' ex-wife, former co-worker, and new bigwig at the CDC Robby Keough (Rene Russo) are basically the only people in the government more concerned with saving lives than with protecting military secrets. Daniels' boss is Brigadier General Ford (Morgan Freeman), a frustrating player in these events who knows things about the virus he is forbidden (and does not want to) admit, but the true villain of this tale is Maj. General Donald McClintock (played to a slimy tee by Donald Sutherland). Daniels and his fellow heroes rush to help the dying and to battle this awful virus, constantly stymied and eventually gravely threatened by military superiors who care more about protecting the secret of a biological weapon than about the people they pledged themselves to defend and protect. The things you see in this film are quite possible, and that is what makes it such a gripping, even frightening film. While the audience is never treated to a true gross-out shot of what this super duper hemorrhagic virus can do to a human body, the horror is nevertheless quite real. The heroism of Daniels and Salt in particular isn't limited to the hospitals and labs; they take on the government and the military itself in an effort to save lives. The one critical information source the medical team needs is the host organism. The original carrier who brought the virus to America's shores represents the only real hope of saving a whole town and very possibly the entire nation. This virus has a 100% kill rate; no one survives it. Well over two hours of increasingly adrenaline-pumping suspense await the viewer of Outbreak. This movie will hold you completely under its spell and leave a definite impression on you for some time to come. It is a rare joy to see Hollywood take on a very serious issue and deal with it in a realistic fashion, and few movies can boast the caliber of talent that you will find here. One or two of the leading actors in this modern thriller can carry a movie on their own, but here a whole range of Hollywood's best come together to make a movie that succeeds perfectly. As far as I'm concerned, Outbreak is a must-see motion picture."
Casualties of War.
Themis-Athena | from somewhere between California and Germany | 03/13/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
""In war, truth is the first casualty." - Aeschylus.
In 1989, a secret U.S. Army SWAT team was called in after an Ebola outbreak among monkeys in a Reston, VA lab; a mere ten miles from Washington, D.C. They eventually determined that this particular strain wasn't contagious for humans - others, however, are; capable of producing a 90% mortality rate within a matter of days. The incident produced Richard Preston's bestselling book "The Hot Zone," on which this movie is loosely based (another project involving Robert Redford and Jodie Foster eventually folded).
Like the Reston Ebola strain, the (fictitious) Motaba virus at the center of Wolfgang Petersen's "Outbreak" is brought to the U.S. by an infected monkey, caught near a village in the Zairean (now: Congolese) Motaba Valley. Unlike the Reston Ebola it is contagious for humans, with a 100% mortality rate within a single day. And unlike any known Ebola strain it is airborne, i.e. not only transmitted by direct human-to-human contact.
Officially nobody has any prior knowledge of the virus at the time of its apparent first hit. In fact, once they've overcome their shock about its gruesome effects, USAMRIID Colonel Sam Daniels (Dustin Hoffman) and his assistants, Majors Schuler and Salt (Kevin Spacey and Cuba Gooding Jr.) - in Zaire to provide medical assistance - are downright ecstatic to have discovered a new virus; a once-in-a-lifetime event for most scientists, if it happens at all. What they don't know is that their own superiors, Brig.Gen. Billy Ford (Morgan Freeman) and Maj.Gen. Donald McClintock (Donald Sutherland) have encountered this virus before, albeit non-airborne, in a mercenary camp in 1967 ... and on McClintock's orders, firebombed the camp to secretly develop a biological weapon. Now McClintock insists that their knowledge remain secret even after a first Motaba outbreak in Boston, brought about by the Californian animal lab worker (Patrick Dempsey) who has unwittingly smuggled the carrier monkey out to sell it to a pet store; and after another outbreak in Cedar Creek, CA, transmitted through the pet store owner and a lab technician infected by his blood. McClintock's solution is the same as 30 years earlier: Firebomb the contaminated area and everybody in it, keep your weapon and be done with it.
But unlike 1967, complete secrecy is no longer an option, as not only Colonel Daniels's team but also his ex-wife Robby (Rene Russo), who is now with the CDC and has helped contain the Boston outbreak, is aware of the virus's presence. Thus, McClintock opts for the reverse strategy, obtains a presidential OK for his "Operation Clean Sweep" - after a dramatic presentation to the assembled cabinet resulting in the conclusion that the "bug" is capable of spreading to the entire country, including D.C., within a mere 48 hours; and the admonishment "Be compassionate, but be compassionate globally" - and orders Ford to get Daniels out of the way and keep him "in line."
Daniels, however, who has long earned a reputation for following orders rather selectively, rushes to Cedar Creek, to work alongside Robby and her team trying to contain the virus. In short order Ford and McClintock show up as well, and soon the town is crawling with soldiers, who seal it off to the outside world and implement a curfew, to prevent a further spread of the virus but also in preparation of "Operation Clean Sweep." A frantic race ensues; pitting Daniels and Salt, who set out to search for the host animal to develop an antiserum, against their own comrades.
The premise of "Outbreak" is entirely believable; as evidenced by the 1989 Virginia incident - after all, it was mere luck that the Reston strain didn't prove contagious for humans - and by the fact that, as is public knowledge, various kinds of viral strains do exist in the U.S. and other countries; at the very least for experimental purposes. While their military use is banned under the 1925 Geneva Protocol and the 1972 Biological Weapons Convention, there still is no functioning control mechanism in place (which was/is also a factor in the Iraq WMD debate). And although the U.S. is a signatory to both aforementioned instruments and has previously stated its non-use policy, the Bush government abandoned international discussions on the issue in 2001.
So, "Outbreak" addresses enormously important concerns; and it does so compellingly and with a stellar cast. Dustin Hoffman imbues his Colonel Daniels with tremendous compassion but also a great sense of humor; and his snappy exchanges with Russo's Robby Keough and his team are a delight, especially those with Kevin Spacey, who in 1995 burst into movie audiences' collective awareness with this film, the Oscar-winning "Usual Suspects" and "Se7en." Morgan Freeman brings all his sensitivity to the movie's most intricate role, General Ford, who is caught between being party to McClintock's scheme and realizing its profound immorality. Then-27-year-old Cuba Gooding Jr. may have been a bit young to play a Major, but he certainly stands his ground; and few actors can portray a villain as menacingly as Donald Sutherland, although the script gives him little opportunity for true complexity.
Unfortunately, "Outbreak" gets the full "Hollywood thriller" treatment, complete with dramatic score, two-dimensional villain, cliched ending and reliance on a few coincidences too many. This (and some plot inconsistencies) somewhat reduces its effect, preventing a good movie from becoming a truly great one - although its 'copter chases are pure eye candy; and it certainly helps that they were shot by Michael Ballhaus, arguably the business's best cameraman. But for the importance of its subject alone, and its outstanding cast, "Outbreak" is worth all the notice it has received.
"[The Cedar Creek population] are casualties of war. ... I'd give them all a medal if I could. But they *are* casualties of war." - "Outbreak," Maj.Gen. Donald McClintock.
"[N]o massacre has occurred ... no further action is warranted." - From the initial Department of the Army investigation report on the March 16, 1968 My Lai incident (Vietnam).
The Hot Zone: A Terrifying True Story
Ebola: Through the Eyes of the People
12 Monkeys (Special Edition)
The China Syndrome (Special Edition)"
Excellent action/drama with brilliant cast !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
LGANS316 | 09/01/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is a stunning movie, especially if you watch it on a good AC-3 5.1 system. The movie opens with a tranquil jungle scene. The birds are twittering in the dense foliage and you feel as though you have entered a beautiful and peaceful utopia (At least your guests think so. Little do they know that you have set your subwoofer volume control to just past twelve o'clock because you know what's to come next). Suddenly the silence is shattered by a mortar bomb flying past your head and plummeting into the centre of your screen followed by rapid machine-gun fire. Outbreak has just begun and now you have to leave your guests to go to the kitchen and fetch a bowl of water and a cloth to wipe up the coffee off your new leather lounge suite that's just been messed on. This is a great story and Dustin Hoffman is the perfect man for the job of defeating our 'small enemies' amidst all the opposition. You must get this on DVD though to really appreciate the theatre experience."