Fedblog FedblogFedblog
Government Executive Editor in Chief Tom Shoop, along with other editors and staff correspondents, look at the federal bureaucracy from the outside in.

This Time, Feds Are Heroes on the Big Screen


Academy Award-winning director Steven Soderbergh's latest film, Contagion, opened recently to rave reviews and even placed second in box office earnings over the past weekend. The film follows the response to a mysterious pandemic as it rapidly spreads across the United States.

While the movie references recent federal emergency failures like Hurricane Katrina and the H1N1 flu scare, federal scientists and bureaucrats are the heroes of the film. The Homeland Security Department (including the Federal Emergency Management Agency), the Defense Department and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention all are featured significantly in the film. Instead of private industry, the aforementioned agencies -- CDC in particular -- do the research and development to defeat the disease. Indeed, by using one of main antagonists of the film as a journalist (Jude Law) trying to sell his own false homeopathic cure to the pandemic, Soderbergh paints the absolute free market approach in a less-than-flattering light.

Much of the film's drama centers around the hard work and devotion to service taken by Dr. Erin Mears (Kate Winslet) and Dr. Ally Hextall (Jennifer Ehle). Mears, a CDC Epidemic Intelligence Service official, travels around the country briefing state and local authorities, as well as helping coordinate quarantines and response. Hextall, a CDC research scientist, is the scientist featured most prominently in the film and is a major heroine in her efforts to develop a vaccine.

Without giving away any major plot points, the film features devoted federal scientists fighting against a hysterically unnerved public, complicated interagency logistics and a mysterious illness. In the current political climate, it isn't often that popular culture lauds the feds as much as Contagion does.

Prior to joining Government Executive’s staff, Ross Gianfortune worked at The Washington Post, The Gazette Newspapers, WXRT Radio and The Columbia Missourian. He holds a bachelor's degree in journalism from University of Missouri and a master's in communications from the American University.

Close [ x ] More from GovExec

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Forecasting Cloud's Future

    Conversations with Federal, State, and Local Technology Leaders on Cloud-Driven Digital Transformation

  • The Big Data Campaign Trail

    With everyone so focused on security following recent breaches at federal, state and local government and education institutions, there has been little emphasis on the need for better operations. This report breaks down some of the biggest operational challenges in IT management and provides insight into how agencies and leaders can successfully solve some of the biggest lingering government IT issues.

  • Communicating Innovation in Federal Government

    Federal Government spending on ‘obsolete technology’ continues to increase. Supporting the twin pillars of improved digital service delivery for citizens on the one hand, and the increasingly optimized and flexible working practices for federal employees on the other, are neither easy nor inexpensive tasks. This whitepaper explores how federal agencies can leverage the value of existing agency technology assets while offering IT leaders the ability to implement the kind of employee productivity, citizen service improvements and security demanded by federal oversight.

  • IT Transformation Trends: Flash Storage as a Strategic IT Asset

    MIT Technology Review: Flash Storage As a Strategic IT Asset For the first time in decades, IT leaders now consider all-flash storage as a strategic IT asset. IT has become a new operating model that enables self-service with high performance, density and resiliency. It also offers the self-service agility of the public cloud combined with the security, performance, and cost-effectiveness of a private cloud. Download this MIT Technology Review paper to learn more about how all-flash storage is transforming the data center.

  • Ongoing Efforts in Veterans Health Care Modernization

    This report discusses the current state of veterans health care


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.