When US army officer General Billy Ford(Morgan Freeman) learns of a sickness spreading throughout a small village in Zaire he sends in one of his best men, virologist Sam Daniels(Dustin Hoffman), to investigate. Upon his return from Zaire Sam warns Billy about the rapidly spreading, deadly virus. Billy and his superior, General Donald McClintock(Donald Sutherland), dismiss the issue as an isolated incident. The virus comes stateside, however, when a monkey smuggled from Zaire arrives in the small community of Cedar Creek, CA. The race is on as Sam and CDC scientist Robby Keough(Rene Russo) fight not only the disease but also a mysterious government coverup that dates back to the late 60s.
Directed by Wolfgang Petersen and written by Laurence Dworet and Robert Roy Pool, Outbreak is a 1995 action/adventure thriller. Similar to other films in the mid nineties Outbreak takes a factual subject, in this case a viral outbreak, and creates thrilling over the top scenarios that go with the plot. Films like Twister and Jurassic Park are some comparisons that come to mind. Outbreak does an exceptional job in keeping the viewer riveted. The story moves at a brisk pace and the odds are constantly stacked against the heroic leads, Sam and Robby. The acting accelerates the action by creating characters that are unique and easily distinguishable. The actors do a phenomenal job establishing the relationships they are in and making us believe in their interactions.
In the same way that the action helps to keep the viewer intrigued, it also gives the plot a few “How could this possibly happen?” moments. The action/adventure genre can sometimes be bloated with questionable decisions and unlikely timing and Outbreak is no exception. Without spoilers, all I can say is that there were moments I questioned if certain events would have happened practically or if they were solely put in to heighten the tension. With a story that revolves around a realistic event, I expect some sensible actions and motivations. In this area, Outbreak dropped the ball more than a few times.
Despite some of the convenient timing and unrealistic choices, I thought Outbreak was a decent film. It’s quick pace, thrilling set pieces, and great acting were more than enough for me to give this film a solid recommendation. This is a perfect rental or streaming option for anyone who enjoys an exciting plot that doesn’t get bogged down in the details.
I give Outbreak 4 out of 6 reels.