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Hoffman hero, Sutherland scamp in thrilling Outbreak


Directed by Wolfgang Petersen.

Written by Lawrence Dworet and Robert Roy Pool.

Starring Dustin Hoffman, Rene Russo, Morgan Freeman, Donald Sutherland, Cuba Gooding Jr., Patrick Dempsey, and Kevin Spacey.

Sony Cheri.

By Kamal Swamidoss
Staff Reporter

Dustin Hoffman and Rene Russo are government doctors trying to find the antibody for a highly infectious, absolutely fatal disease. Donald Sutherland and Morgan Freeman are Army officers working from their own agenda. Their objectives and mutual interactions form the plot to this entertaining suspense-action film.

It's hard to tell if something like this could really happen in America now. The entire story is based on one seemingly implausible event which begins the outbreak. If you accept it, everything else could happen. Other than that one point at the beginning, the rest of the plot is well-constructed. I liked the scene-by-scene description of how the outbreak starts. Petersen uses good scenes and some clever special effects to build and sustain a feeling of suspense early in the spread of the disease.

Hoffman is the star of the film. He skillfully plays a passionate, stubborn man who risks his own life to save others. It's easy to cheer for this type of character. He's motivated by his passion. He has good intentions, but he won't let anything stop him once he decides to do something. The basis for his actions is logical, but not everyone who feels how he feels decides to do what he does. His passion forces him to take that extra step, to risk himself.

Sutherland plays the bad guy. He's motivated by his own brand of logic, but that logic isn't what makes him entertaining. He's just very good at playing the traditional villain, the man who has a simple goal that's totally the opposite of what you feel. His style and manner are, most precisely, villainous. That's why it's so easy to hate him.

There are some cinematically striking scenes in Outbreak. One of them takes place when the Army isolates a small town in California after the outbreak occurs there. A news helicopter tries to fly into the town, but two big Army helicopters repel it. It was very cool.

One interesting thing about this film is that everyone, except the good guy and the bad guy, does what history would interpret as "the right thing." It's hard to describe this further without giving the story away. Suffice it to say that only Hoffman and Sutherland's actions will be noted as divergent from what their jobs demand.

There are a few weak points. For instance, the scene editing is a little choppy sometimes, and there are places where you can tell that the screenwriters had to paste in some dialogue to explain what's happening. In addition, while the soundtrack helps to heighten the suspense, it isn't exceptional.

Outbreak is mostly a plot movie, but what a plot! The feeling of suspense occurs often. I felt it at crucial moments - and there are lots of crucial moments! I'll conclude on that note: The film carefully builds the story through different events and perspectives. Most of the film is shown like this, but then it quickly ends the story from each of the main perspectives. The result is entertaining.