Movies/Entertainment,  Off the Shelf

Film Community Potluck Series: ‘Outbreak’

Next up in our Film Community Potluck series we have this little “scare you with science” flick from the 90’s. In a world where terrorism, unemployment and terrible economy abound, sometimes its what you can’t see that really give you chills. So just before Halloween here’s another flick (recommended by MoviesCrunch). Great, like there’s not enough to be scared of these days.

Wolfgang Peterson’s big budget, star studded paranoia film does for disease what Spielberg did for sharks. Well, not to that extent but it certainly makes a case for getting a flu shot at the very least.

Where the whole movie is about stopping nationwide pandemic and annihilation, the disease in question really pales in comparison to the myriad of other dangers researched by the CDC on a regular basis. Motaba aside, the 1 to 2 minutes of exposition in the CDC underbelly seems even more frightening the film’s plot. But nothing says widespread panic like an incurable disease and a Stealth bomber to clean up a mess. Moreover the movie would have been pretty boring had it been confined to a laboratory.

They really brought the stats to bat on this picture and Dustin Hoffmanled the show with his fierce determination (hard to expect anything less than the best from him though). Morgan Freeman certainly hit his stride in the nineties and I don’t think he’s taken a bad role (except for Dreamcatcher). Rounding out the cast was a mid-career Patrick Dempsey, a young Cuba Gooding Jr. and Kevin Spacey for good measure.

Peterson didn’t have to try very hard to scare us (the transmission of deadly airborne contaminants were enough already) but the camera work and visuals aided in the fear inducing spread of the virus and paranoia. The plot is a little flimsy and does more to make us fear government red tape and conspiracies than a deadly monkey virus. Still it does its job especially with a talented cast who seem to believe in the lines they’re reading. You can forgive some overacting in light of the “Who’s Who of the 90’s” cast and have some fun, especially if you’ve never seen this before. But you’ll still probably get a little freaked out next time you hear someone coughing in a movie theater.


While this may have gotten lost among the other disaster movies of the 90’s it is still worth a look. Decent effects make it entertaining, the premise has a tendency to get under your skin (virus humor, get it?) and there’s just the right amount of tension to give the characters decent arcs by the time the credits role. Although is it strange that of all the scientifically plausible plots in that decade I find Jurassic Park more believable?:P


  • rtm

    I saw this a long time ago and remember being really creeped out by it. Don’t remember much of the cast other than Hoffman and Russo though, didn’t remember Freeman or Spacey being in this at all. Funny you mention Rene Russo, I just had a post wondering where a lot of the previously famous actresses gone. I like her a lot in In the Line of Fire and Thomas Crown Affair.

    • MarcC

      Russo was great in Crown Affair, good call Ruth. She was like the Meg Ryan of the 90s. I think she’s a very capable actress but I don’t think I’ve seen In the Line of Fire. I think I’ll check it out and your post, looking forward to who you wrote about:)