For Your Consideration: The Andromeda Strain

ALTThe landscape of Netflix’s streaming service can often be overwhelming. With so many titles out there, both new and classic, straying outside of the films you know can seem like a dangerous game. Well we here at For Your Consideration have you covered. Every week we’ll bring you a selection from the Instant Watch archives that you may or may not have heard of, but will hopefully meet with your viewing approval.

Today, Contagion spreads nationwide; that is in fact a movie announcement and not a warning about an impending national disaster. The film, directed by Ocean’s 11-13’s Steven Soderbergh, charts the spread of a global pandemic claiming lives quicker than doctors can identify it and boasts an impressive cast that includes Matt Damon, Gwyneth Paltrow, Marion Cotillard, Jude Law, Kate Winslet, and Laurence Fishburne. If you come out of the movie tonight feeling an itch to see another deadly virus film, I would highly suggest the 1971 thriller The Andromeda Strain.

When a satellite crashes in a small town in New Mexico, the locals assume the object belongs to NASA. But when the citizenry of this small town begin to drop dead from a mysterious, devastating disease, serious questions are raised as to the origins of this satellite. A team of the country’s best doctors and scientists are called in to investigate the virus strain causing these deaths. Isolated in a massive underground facility, the team uses all the technology at their disposal to identify and understand the virus, but will they too fall victim to the disease?

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The Andromeda Strain takes the familiar, highly dramatic cinematic device of a viral outbreak and adds an interesting sci-fi twist. It’s one thing to be facing a virus born of the elements of our own planet, it’s quite another to have to try and stop a malicious microscopic alien life form. And this virus is a bastard, killing almost immediately by turning all blood in the body into powder. This infusion of sharp, intriguing sci-fi elements is unsurprising, given that The Andromeda Strain is based on a novel by the incomparable Michael Crichton.

This film works in multiple layers each offering their own unique tones. The opening of the film almost feels like a horror film. The text on the screen insists that what we are seeing is not only real, but in fact assures us that we shouldn’t fear reproach from the government since the information was recently declassified; a now standard gimmick for found footage horror in particular.

ALTThere is an especially creepy moment in which a transmission from the New Mexico town is interrupted by an otherworldly shriek that had goose bumps shooting up my arm. The scenes of the bodies lying strewn about the town are not graphic, but still incredibly unsettling. I got chills during the scene of the jet pilot’s face crumbling under his oxygen mask—like Top Gun as directed by David Cronenberg.

There are some strong comparisons between The Andromeda Strain and Contagion, namely that the latter deliberately paces itself in order to painstakingly track the evolution of the research into the disease. But where The Andromeda Strain features a contained outbreak, Contagion deals with a global pandemic so it has far more perspectives to alternate between when it is in danger of losing its audience.

I highly recommend The Andromeda Strain and think it will make a fitting double feature with Soderbergh’s new film. Although by the time you get home from Contagion you may not want to touch your remote, or your couch, or your significant other.

Come to think of it, how clean is your keyboard?

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