I was at a friend when this movie came on the TV. Not having any prior knowledge of it just the mere title alone set up my expectations fairly low: a low budget disaster movie. One of those you see every now and then on TV about killer tidal waves or earthquakes and such in which a couple of completely unknowns and a has-been TV-star from the ranks of David Hasselhoff try to survive the disaster. But as soon as the cast list came on I got a little more exited. Tiffany Thiessen (Kelly from Saved by the Bell), Eric Roberts, Faye Dunaway, Bob Gunton… OK, so we’re not talking George Clooney and Brad Pitt here but these are all actors with an interesting resume and who know how to chew scenery, except for Thiessen of course, but then again she is here to play it straight en deliver eye candy which she still is.
Little did I know at the time when the movie started that it was one with almost three and a half hours of running time including all the commercials. I discovered that after watching a little over one and a half hour when we suddenly get the cast listing again. Apparently this was originally cut in two.
It’s probably no surprise that a movie called Pandemic deals with a lethal virus that seems to come out of nowhere and rapidly infects people. The movie starts off with some surfers on the New Zealand coast where one of the is missing his dog. We know exactly where his dog is because we get a good ominous shot of it lying dead next to all kinds of dead birds. One of these two kids then goes back home while having a nasty cough. The cough only gets worse when on the plane he starts to cough up blood and eventually dies in his seat, but not before we had the classic airplane line: Is there a doctor on board? Which always results in “Yes, I’m a doctor”. Funny how there’s always a doctor on board and not someone with a specialization. It would be very funny if someone responded: No, but I’m a spinal surgeon so if there’s anything wrong with his back just let me know. Then again Jack from Lost was a spinal surgeon and he did all the doctoring on the island so that’s just standard knowledge to these people.
So to cut this story short; disease spread throughout the plane, people get sick, passengers go into quarantine, one escapes the scene and unknowingly spreads the disease around and before you can say bird flu they people in the movie are looking at a Pandemic. Hence the title.
But you can’t have a movie that runs amost three hours and have a simple “Dustin Hoffman chases a monkey” plot so there are all kinds of subplots here. Of course Kelly Kapowski who does a Denise Richards in The World Is Not Enough only better here is looking for a cure, trying to contain the spread but ends up getting a relative who is infected under her care making the threat personal. But there are also a couple of passengers who get to know better, andnone of them are very likeable. There’s a criminal in custody of who’s crimes are unclear until the second part of the movie. A woman who’s trying to become a photographer but clearly has no clue on how to photograph. There’s are plenty of examples but the moment she’s walking off the plane and she’s just waving the photo camera around not even looking through the lens and we hear these constant snap shot sounds. Oh and she never uses the flash, not even in the place where they are quarantined.
Then there’s a redneck who at first is just an annoying passenger but quickly becomes the one screaming about government conspiracies, his constitutional rights and eventually ends up gathering his right wing gun nut buddies to fight the martial law the state has declared.
And last but not least is the money hungry real estate agent who flees the quarantine because he’s got a big deal to be made. He becomes the one responsible for spreading the virus throughout the city.
What I found peculiar was that nobody actually seemed to be traveling with friends or family members on the plane.
The movie looks cheap and feels a bit bloated with all the things that seem to be going on. The drug dealer getting broken out of the quarantine who then hijacks the trucks with the antidote. The rednecks gathering to enforce their vision on the constitution next to the whole we-have-to-find-a-cure plot. The acting is decent, and the aforementioned class actor don’t get much scenery to chew. Thiessen does provide a decent lead though and Gunton was fun to watch.
The movie isn’t bad, but it’s not very good either. Some of the events that happen felt unrealistic there are too many characters we just care too little about. But for a made for TV movie it was surprisingly watchable.