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movie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: Outbreak

Starring: Dustin Putman, Rene Russo
Director: Wolfgang Petersen
Rated: R
RunTime: 128 Minutes
Release Date: March 1995
Genres: Action, Drama, Suspense

*Also starring: Morgan Freeman, Kevin Spacey, Cuba Gooding Jr., Donald Sutherland, Patrick Dempsey, Zakes Mokae, Dale Dye, Jim Antonio

Reviewer Roundup
1.  Steve Rhodes review follows movie reviewmovie reviewmovie review
2.  Dragan Antulov read the review movie review

Review by Steve Rhodes
3 stars out of 4

OUTBREAK is a detective story and a thriller about a germ. It was produced and directed by Wolfgang Petersen of DAS BOOT and IN THE LINE OF FIRE fame. This is a director who knows how to create great tension that really grabs the audience's attention and holds it through out the entire movie. He is also a master at action sequences and the military helicopter scenes in this flick were evidence of his abilities as well as that of the cinematographer.

OUTBREAK starts in a remote village in Zaire. From the very beginning of the show we know that there is a virus of cataclysmic proportions. It works so fast that if you are not dead in twenty-four hours after being exposed, you are safe. This germ detective story is excellent and the pacing is good so that your eyes stay glued to the screen. Go to the bathroom before entering, you don't want to miss any of the details. It is complex and yet quite easy to follow.

The germ detective work had much the flavor of the movie AND THE BAND PLAYED ON about the hunt for the source of the AIDS illness. OUTBREAK at its best was almost as good. Petersen is a master director.

After seeing this movie, I should warn you that you may never want to fly in airplanes again. You certainly will find yourself leaving any theater where someone coughs.

Sad to say, we also learn from the beginning that there is a subplot in the show that is going to have us believe that our military has some covert operations of massively evil proportions going on. Without this ridiculous and unnecessary sojourn into again lambasting our own generals, the movie had a perfectly plausible ring to it.

The acting was uneven. Dustin Hoffman, whom I have not seen in many movies recently, stars as the military chief of biological research. His research was on finding the causes of and curing viral infections--not on developing killer germs. Hoffman delivers star quality work. He is totally believable and never goes overboard with his acing which he has been known to do in other films.

Also excellent in the show was Hoffman's sidekick played by Cuba Gooding Jr. He played the aggressive green recruit character in fresh and interesting ways. He enliven every scene he was in.

Rene Russo who was so excellent in Petersen's last show, IN THE LINE OF FIRE, was given a poorly written part as Hoffman's domestic counterpart--the head of germ research at the CDC. She was also his ex-wife. (Believably, having an ex-wife as beautiful as Russo, Hoffman spent most of the movie trying to get her back.) Russo's acting was not credible and moreover, I would just as soon have seen her whole part eliminated. The germ research had the energy to stand on its own and did not need a romantic second subplot to add excitement to the movie.

Another tragedy of the film was the wasting of Morgan Freeman as Hoffman's commanding general. This was the weakest character Freeman has ever been asked to play--very one dimensional. This brilliant actor (GLORY, DRIVING MISS DAISY, THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION, etc.) did not seem to care about the show and gave a pedestrian performance. Finally, the less said about Donald Sutherland's part as the Major General who was Freeman's boss, the better. Both characters were cliches that should not have been in a movie of this caliber.

OUTBREAK runs an exciting 2:00. It is rated R for bleeding eyeballs and other makeup effects that you see on Halloween masks. There was a 10 year old behind me that loved the movie. I recommend this tension filled detective story to everyone above the age of about 9, and I award it ***. Absent the unnecessary diabolical military subplot, I would have been able to give the movie another half star.

Copyright 1995 Steve Rhodes

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