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:

  • Sponsored by Brocade

    Best of 2016 Federal Forum eBook

    Earlier this summer, Federal and tech industry leaders convened to talk security, machine learning, network modernization, DevOps, and much more at the 2016 Federal Forum. This eBook includes a useful summary highlighting the best content shared at the 2016 Federal Forum to help agencies modernize their network infrastructure.

  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    GBC Flash Poll Series: Merger & Acquisitions

    Download this GBC Flash Poll to learn more about federal perspectives on the impact of industry consolidation.

  • Sponsored by One Identity

    One Nation Under Guard: Securing User Identities Across State and Local Government

    In 2016, the government can expect even more sophisticated threats on the horizon, making it all the more imperative that agencies enforce proper identity and access management (IAM) practices. In order to better measure the current state of IAM at the state and local level, Government Business Council (GBC) conducted an in-depth research study of state and local employees.

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    The Next Federal Evolution of Cloud

    This GBC report explains the evolution of cloud computing in federal government, and provides an outlook for the future of the cloud in government IT.

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    A DevOps Roadmap for the Federal Government

    This GBC Report discusses how DevOps is steadily gaining traction among some of government's leading IT developers and agencies.

  • Sponsored by LTC Partners, administrators of the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program

    Approaching the Brink of Federal Retirement

    Approximately 10,000 baby boomers are reaching retirement age per day, and a growing number of federal employees are preparing themselves for the next chapter of their lives. Learn how to tackle the challenges that today's workforce faces in laying the groundwork for a smooth and secure retirement.

  • Sponsored by Hewlett Packard Enterprise

    Cyber Defense 101: Arming the Next Generation of Government Employees

    Read this issue brief to learn about the sector's most potent challenges in the new cyber landscape and how government organizations are building a robust, threat-aware infrastructure

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    GBC Issue Brief: Cultivating Digital Services in the Federal Landscape

    Read this GBC issue brief to learn more about the current state of digital services in the government, and how key players are pushing enhancements towards a user-centric approach.

  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    Joint Enterprise Licensing Agreements

    Read this eBook to learn how defense agencies can achieve savings and efficiencies with an Enterprise Software Agreement.

  • Sponsored by Cloudera

    Government Forum Content Library

    Get all the essential resources needed for effective technology strategies in the federal landscape.


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