Wednesday, January 21, 2009

1/17/09: Outbreak (1995)

DUSTIN HOFFMAN WEEK
We close out Dustin Hoffman week with a medical drama in the tradition of Robin Cook and Michael Crichton novels. (How this was not written by one of those two guys, I'll never know.) Outbreak is the 1995 hit all about how an extremely virulent strain of an Ebola-type virus makes its way from Africa to the United States. Hoffman plays a heroic Army doctor racing against the clock to find a vaccine before comically evil Major General Donald Sutherland can blow up the town where the infected people live.

Throughout the movie, I kept wondering: How did Hoffman steal this role from the clutches of Harrison Ford, whom it very obviously was written for (or, at least, somebody like him)? I don't want to say Dusty is miscast, exactly—how does Ratso Rizzo act "against type?" I have seen him play everything from an autistic savant to an actor in drag, but this has to be one of his few ill-fitting roles. Still, the movie has a dream cast, which includes Rene Russo, Morgan Freeman, Kevin Spacey and a pre-Jerry Maguire Cuba Gooding Jr., and plenty of nail-biting suspense at every turn. Sure, there are plot holes and clich├ęs up the wazoo, but I was thoroughly entertained throughout. It's a solid thriller that kept me glued to the edge of my seat.

This was a fun week. It'd be nice to do another Dustin Hoffman marathon sometime next year, featuring more of his films I haven't seen. My dream lineup: Who Is Harry Kellerman, Straw Dogs, Death of a Salesman, Billy Bathgate, Moonlight Mile and I Heart Huckabees. Rating: 4/5.

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