Author(s): Connor Campbell
"The Hot Zone"
Directed by Ridley Scott
Written by Richard Preston
Toni Collette- Nancy Jaxx
George Clooney- Jerry Jaxx
John Goodman- Eugene Johnson
Mathieu Amalric- Charles Monet
Djimon Hounsou- Dr. Musoke
Sophie Okonedo- Nurse Mayinga
Tom Wilkinson- Peter Jahrling
Tagline: "Three Stories. One Terrifying Possibility"
Synopsis: The family of viruses called filoviridae contains some of the deadliest viruses on the face of the earth. Marburg kills 25% of victims, Ebola Sudan 50% and Ebola Zaire 90%. Victims experience hemorrhagic fever causing them to bleed profusely, have black vomit with red spots and often lose all signs of their personality, just a home for their virus until ultimately, they die.
Charles Monet was a loner. A French man who left for Kenya after a nasty divorce. It’s natural beauty attracted him and took him away from his problems. Kenya before AIDS was much simpler. He had a small home in the shadow of Mount Elgon and worked at a sugar factory. He was considered a ladies man, attracting many of the native women. He took one of his many girlfriends to Mount Elgon for a romantic rendezvous. When it started to rain they took cover in Kitum Cave. While they waited, they toured the cave. The walls were covered in bat dung. Perhaps he dipped his finger in it. Or maybe he pricked his finger on one of the many crystals sticking out of the cave walls. Nobody knows for certain what he did, but what is certain is that when he left the cave, he was affected with the Marburg virus. He didn’t go to work the next day. He looked pale and wasn’t acting like himself. He threw up several times a day. His boss got him a ticket to go the foremost hospital in Africa. On the plane, he vomited. The person sitting next to him noticed it was black with red spots. Then, he hemorrhaged. He was rushed off the plane and was immediately taken to the hospital. He waited for 30 minutes & hemorrhaged again before finally receiving treatment. Dr. Musoke, one of the best and most promising doctors treated him. Charles threw up again and Dr. Musoke who wasn’t wearing a mask caught it in his mouth. Monet died shortly after that and soon enough, Dr. Musoke started displaying symptoms. An epidemic had begun.
Kinshasa, Zaire, October 1976:
N’Seka Mayinga was a nurse at the Ngaliema Hospital in Kinshasa, Zaire in the late 70’s. Kinshasa, which would later be known as one of the epicenters for the first AIDS outbreak, was dealing with an Ebola outbreak happening just outside the city. Although it is not known how she obtained the virus, it is suspected that she caught it while treating a nun with the disease. The seriousness of the virus was unknown at the time and she took no precautions in handling the nun’s blood or fluids. Nurse Mayinga started displaying the same symptoms so many of her patients had been showing. She did not want to admit to herself that she was sick, and she especially didn’t want the hospital to find out. She visited every major hospital in Kinshasa desperately trying to avoid Ngaliema. Finally, she admitted herself at Ngaliema and told of how she ran through Kinshasa trying to get treatment. Kinshasa went into lock down after learning this, trying to make sure that the city itself was not experiencing an outbreak. Nurse Mayinga died with the deadliest human strain of Ebola that there is. Kinshasa itself avoided an outbreak.
Reston, Virginia, 1989-1990:
Reston is one of the larger suburbs of Washington D.C. Nancy and Jerry Jaxx both worked at the United States Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases. They studied these viruses for a living. Eugene Johnson was an expert when it came to the “thread viruses” as they were called. Some monkeys were shipped in from the Philippines and taken to a monkey house in Reston where they are tested for diseases and held before being shipped to testing facilities. Peter Jahrling, the owner, noticed that a lot of the monkeys in room F were dying. They had all hemorrhaged and hadn’t eaten in the days before their deaths. Soon, all the monkeys in Room F were dead and monkeys in room E started dying. Jarhling called USAMRIID to have his monkeys tested. Eugene performed a test in which the disease being tested is compared with Marburg, Ebola Sudan and the Mayinga strain of Ebola Zaire. If one of them glows, then the virus is filoviridae. Marburg didn’t. Sudan had a dim glow, which means nothing. But Mayinga glowed a bright green. Ebola was present in America. A recon was performed on the monkey house. All the monkeys were killed and they left the building alone for several days. A worker at the monkey house began to vomit. Strangely, he did not have Ebola. 95% percent of the monkeys who had Ebola Reston died, making it the deadliest strain ever. But humans were safe from it, for the moment. The slightest mutation in the virus could unleash it on the human race. It could happen any time. It could happen right now. Imagine a world wide outbreak of the deadliest virus on the planet. It’s not that far-fetched.
What the Press would say:The Hot Zone follows three stories of deadly viruses and their affects on human nature. It’s not a disaster film, but rather an intellectual serious drama about what actually has happened and what could. That is much scarier than a fabricated outbreak in a populated area. Ridley Scott has captured the essence of Richard Preston’s hit 1994 novel perfectly. He keeps us on the edge of our seats without ever having to show an actual outbreak. Throughout the whole film, only 4 people have diseases. This keeps us in the story, rather than distracted by chaos and death. The film is divided into 3 parts that don’t intertwine. The only thing they have in common is a virus. The style is refreshingly different from the typical interwoven urban drama. It tells us brilliant stories without boring us by stretching out too long. The cast is exemplary, especially on the part of Sophie Okonedo and Mathieu Amalric. Amalric plays a ladies man who is stricken with Marburg virus and Okonedo plays a nurse afraid of facing the fact she is dying of Ebola. Their performances aren’t your typical sick person acting. Their characters become lifeless shells in a way, just viruses with a face. Overall, The Hot Zone is the most frightening, most intense, and by far, the best film of the year. ****/****
Best Picture- Ridley Scott & Richard Preston
Best Director- Ridley Scott
Best Supporting Actor- Mathieu Amalric
Best Supporting Actress- Sophie Okonedo
Best Adapted Screenplay- Richard Preston
Best Film Editing- Pietro Scalia
Best Cinematography- Robert Richardson
Best Original Score- James Newton Howard