Outbreak is almost like a Robin Cook novel (I do believe he wrote a different novel with the same name), but at least Cook would've gotten the science part of this thriller right. The deadly Motaba virus is out loose in a small town in CA. Sam Daniels (Dustin Hoffman) and his ex-wife Robbt (Rene Russo) are army doctors who are trying to stop the virus. The solution according to the screen writers, who're clearly are not well versed in immunology at all, is to obtain "anti-serum" from the carrier of the virus, which happens to be an African monkey that has been transported to California. The reason I question the scientific premise is because you cannot simply take the antibodies the monkey might have and inject into a human and assume it will work! They throw words like ELISA (Enzyme Linked ImmunoSorbent Assay) around but yet they show this insulting ignorance.

What is interesting, however, is the conspiracy plot that is thrown into this movie. A different strain of the Motaba virus was earlier discovered by the army and an antibody was developed against it, but with the help of two doctors, Morgan Freeman and Donald Sutherland (who's once again the classic villain), the government keeps the antibody a secret so they can use the virus as a biological weapon. When the new strain is discovered by Daniels in Africa, the army wants to do a similar thing, which would mean sacrificing the lives of 2600 people in the town.

I find this subplot interesting primarily because it once again shows how people in power abuse it. You do not impose a quarantine with hundreds of soldiers equipped with semi-automatic rifles. Nor do you randomly kill people when they try to resist under a stressful situation. But I wonder what the government would do in a situation like that. And what would you do if you were a citizen of the town that the government decided to impose curfews on, etc.? How would you defend yourself? It is scary to think that the government, on a whim, has the power to make any environment you're in totally Orwellian. This is the aspect that is brought out best in the movie.

Still, it wasn't a bad movie. The helicopter scenes are cool and Hoffman and Sutherland do have their moments. Worth renting.

Movie ram-blings || Ram Samudrala || me@ram.org