2020 got off to a bad start. The US and Iran were flexing muscles and #WW3 was trending on social media. Meanwhile, Australia was besieged with apocalyptic fires and East Africa was being infested with swarms of locusts. Was the end of the world nigh, wondered the Biblical types. And if that were not enough, basketball star Kobe Bryant died in a tragic helicopter crash. All this still in January.
And then Covid-19 happened, and the world screeched to a halt. Pandemics tend to have that effect. Cut to December, and here we are in India with people still dying of the deadly virus, a farmer protest that is getting more serious by the day, and as if this were not enough, we were also hit with Sadak 2 and just for good measure, the trailer for Coolie No. 1. Haven’t we suffered enough?
Turns out this year is also a first in many ways. From social distancing, anti-mask protests and quirky coffee recipes, the world has seen it all. As the year draws to a close, we cannot help but wonder how 2020 also reminded us of films that showcased the horrors of disease and other uncertainties that we have experienced this year. And so we bring you a list of nine films that perfectly capture the essence of the inexplicable year that was.
1. Virus (2019)
A Malayalam medical thriller, Virus is based on the real-life Nipah virus outbreak that plagued Kerala in 2018. Starring Tovino Thomas, Parvathy Thiruvothu and Revathy, this film depicts how a team of medical professionals go out of their way to contain the spread of this new virus. In today’s scenario, Virus becomes relevant to remind the audience of the courage and initiative that medical practitioners and workers take to save patients from a deadly and unknown disease.
(Read the Silverscreen India of Virus here)
2. World War Z (2013)
In this film, starring Brad Pitt as a former United Nations investigator, a deadly zombie virus is unleashed, and it is up to Pitt to find the source of the outbreak and prevent its spread. As he and his family are taken to a US Navy vessel, he is instructed to find clues to understand the reason behind the epidemic. The movie is an apocalyptic horror film that shows scientists and governments racing against time to save humanity from a deadly zombie virus. Based on a 2006 book of the same name, World War Z shows insight into authorities trying to learn about newer strains of the virus and scrambling to find a vaccine to cure it.
3. Contagion (2011)
This year’s events have caused people to revisit this 2011 film about the daunting realities of going through a pandemic. Directed by Steven Soderbergh, this film starts on a grim note where Beth (Gwenyth Paltrow) dies of a mysterious illness. The new disease is transmitted through respiratory droplets and government and medical authorities must figure out how to handle the outbreak. As more and more people get infected, they stare at what seems like the end of humanity. Contagion has become the second most-watched film during this pandemic, according to Buzzfeed, showcasing how the events are a literal mirror of today’s situation.
4. Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)
A post-apocalyptic action movie, Mad Max: Fury Road stars Tom Hardy and Charlize Theron in lead roles. Set in a desert wasteland with dwindling resources, a lone drifter Max (Hardy) is taken hostage by the workers of an evil dictator Immortan Joe, who decide to use him as a blood bag. At the same time, lieutenant Imperator Furiosa (Theron) goes rogue and inadvertently pulls Max into the dangerous journey that she embarks on with Immortan Joe’s wives to reach the “green place.” Mad Max: Fury Road is a terrifying look into a world of chaos where women are seen as breeders and water is extremely scarce. While the world might not be this scary just yet, this movie definitely reminds people about the true dangers of living in such a world. Apart from this, the film that is based on a desert with barely any dialogues resonates in today’s world where having minimal contact is the new normal.
5. Outbreak (1995)
Another classic film about dealing with deadly viruses, this film takes a look into how an Ebola-like virus transmits from a monkey and starts to spread like wildfire. Starring Dustin Hoffman and Morgan Freeman, this film is based on the novel The Hot Zone, written by Richard Preston. Sam (Hoffman) is a military virologist who gets behind the task of curbing the spread of the virus. Soon, it is realised that some military officials may be having ulterior motives to find the cure. Despite Outbreak being an action film that does not necessarily stay true to the pandemic film genre, it gets a lot of elements right. From people trying to escape quarantine and officials focusing on personal gain rather than helping their citizens encapsulate some of the major events related to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. Interestingly, there was an Ebola outbreak in the African country of Zaire at the time of the film’s release.
6. Carriers (2011)
Carriers stars Chris Pine, Emily VanCamp, and Lou Taylor Pucci in lead roles and revolves around two brothers and their friends decide to escape to an isolated beach when an unknown virus starts affecting people in the USA. This movie has been praised for its realistic portrayal of a pandemic as the friends’ goal is to isolate themselves and try to not get infected. In the film, one of the friends, Bobby, gets infected by the virus and tried her best to hide it mirroring a recurrent concern in today’s world. The movie also deals with the question of selfish survivalism, a topic that has become very relevant today as seen with people’s anti-vaccination and anti-mask stance.
7. Wild (2014)
Wild is a biographical drama film starring Reese Witherspoon as Cheryl Strayed. In 1995, after her divorce, Cheryl decided to hike 1,100 miles in the famous Pacific Crest Trail. Despite having no experience in hiking, she is resolute to go through with it. This film about self-discovery and isolation received two Academy Award nominations in the Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress category. Much like most of us this year, this film is about a person’s determination to stay positive even during the most trying times. This movie focuses on Cheryl’s journey to achieve redemption and self-love by isolating herself from the world. This is something that echoes with today’s audience as more and more people in self-isolation are trying to discover new hobbies and learn to love themselves.
8. Her (2013)
Hailed as one of the greatest films of this century by a BBC poll, Her is a romantic comedy and drama film starring Joaquin Phoenix, Scarlett Johansson, and Amy Adams. The story is about Theodore, who falls in love with his operating system’s artificial intelligence (AI) called Samantha while going through a difficult divorce. Samantha also reciprocates, and the two strike a relationship. At a time when the world is making strides in the development of AI, this movie offers perspective into the real possibility of human beings becoming dependent on technology. The film inadvertently captures the essence of being in a relationship in 2020, where everything is virtual and where people are isolated from each other.
9. 7aum Arivu ( 2011)
This 2011 historical-drama film stars Suriya, Shruti Haasan, and Johnny Tri Nguyen. As a way to wage biological war against India, a Chinese hypnotist decides to utilise an ancient virus to infect Chennai in a mission termed Operation Red. At the same time, a genetics student discovers that the descendant of the 6th century saint Bodhidharma is a circus artist in Chennai. Bodhidharma was a martial arts and medical expert, who travelled to China to stop the spread of a similar virus there. In the present, the student and the artist team up to stop Operation Red from spreading and wrecking havoc. 7aum Arivu is a film that is supposedly a disaster film but ends up being a typical action movie that focuses on bizarre genetic tests and lengthy action sequences to showcase the male lead’s talent and strength. At the time of its release, the film was criticised by followers of Bodhidharma, who felt that it had many inaccuracies and misrepresented the historical figure. However, this film does bear a certain amount of relevance to difficulties in the Ind0-Chinese relationship in recent years. As both countries try to engage in dialogue to resolve issues, Bodhidharma’s attempts to foster peace and harmony in China make the movie slightly more realistic and grounded.