Movie Review: Outbreak (1995)

Outbreak is our first quarantine/plague-type movie. It’s also one of the least B-movies I’ve reviewed for a very long time, so I’m not on my best footing here. It’s got an all-star cast (Hoffman, Freeman, and Donald Sutherland, to start with), it was a big studio release, and a hit.

The virus doesn’t quite fit our current situation: it has rapid-onset of symptoms and is more like the Ebola virus than a coronavirus. It also causes a seriously high number of fatalities and is highly contagious through the air. The movie starts by showing the original discovery of the virus by Sutherland’s character, and then jumps to a crazy outbreak that spreads to the United States.

One carrier gets to the United States and there’s an outbreak that nearly kills an entire town so fast it’s ridiculous. This is scary, today, where before it was just a creepy medical disaster movie.

The movie is well-made from start to end: they had a pretty good budget, the acting is great, the story is good. The basis for the virus is sound, given the nature of Ebola and Marburg — the effects of those two are quite awful. There’s nothing really there to ding the movie on, other than perhaps how fast one person becomes fatally infected based on an air leak in a suit (I have a problem with the idea that enough virus got him in the short amount of time it took him to leave the room, in a pressurized suit). The government response pushed by Sutherland is also ridiculous beyond measure, but they need it for the drama, and it certainly highlights how awful the virus is.

Overall, this is quite good as far as movies go, not even in category. Outbreak is just a well-made film. Full stop, no qualifications for genre or subject matter. I’m sure I won’t find twelve other movies of this caliber on the topic of quarantines/plagues/outbreaks…

Report card:
Runtime: Two hours, eight minutes.
Acting: Great.
Effects: Limited, but good.
Violence: A hair of it.
Dead Townsfolk: And how
Revenge Kills: None.
Gun Use: Nothing offensively inaccurate that I remember.
Gore: A bit of disease gore, mostly at the beginning.
Creepy? Normally, no. Lately…
Monster Type? A virus similar to ebola.
Monster Ick Factor: The effects.
Funny? Not really, but it’s not trying to be.
Nudity: No.
Pet Death: Not directly.
Pacing: Pretty solid.

Leave a Reply