Judge David Johnson would absolutely listen to what Tiffani Thiessen has to say when it comes to virology.
The fear is real. The panic is spreading.
This mouth-bleeding, phlegm-coughing made-for-TV miniseries epic stumbles, hacks and collapses on DVD. Fans of former teen icons cast as brilliant virologists need to stand up and take notice: Kelly Kapowski is in the house!
Facts of the Case
Tiffani Thiessen is Dr. Kayla Martin, a renowned scientist from Los Angeles who is about to square off with the virus of her life. A commercial airline out of Sydney has been ravaged by a mysterious illness that's killing in a shockingly swift fashion. Martin and her loyal crew of brainiacs mobilize to combat the virus, but when some passengers manage to elude the quarantine, the Hot Zone becomes a whole lot hotter. Awwww yeaahhhhhh.
Meanwhile, the L.A. mayor (Eric Roberts) and the California governor (Faye Dunaway) engage in a political sparring match and FBI Agent Troy Whitlock (Vincent Spano) tails an escaped felon who murdered his partner, and who also just might hold the key to defusing a situation that is rapidly spiraling out of control.
Pandemic does very little new and exciting to render its viewing mandatory, but it doesn't botch the virus-epidemic-disaster-movie game plan either. If you dig watching people run around in biohazard suits, doing autopsies, peering into microscopes, scrambling to find the antidote, making melodramatic, apocalyptic pronouncements and zipping up body bags, Pandemic will fit nicely into the canon of Killer Virus Movies.
The two major criticisms I can lob at the film are the substandard acting the grueling length. Granted, that's low-hanging fruit, unless the thought of Tiffani Thiessen struggling to spout off monologues about messenger RNA over the course of 160 minutes quickens your pulse. But, nearly three hours is an awfully long time to sit through, well, anything without the Riders of Rohirrim throwing spears at big-ass elephants, and Pandemic will certainly test your endurance. I suggest breaking the viewing down into easy-to-digest segments, maybe using an on-screen bleeding orifice as an intermission cue. And Thiessen isn't alone in the underwhelming performance category, as there are plenty of wooden line-readings to be found. On the other hand, there's Bruce Boxleitner as the FBI-pursued fugitive chewing through his lines with the sneering panache of a Die Hard villain. That's a nice mixture of hot and cold acting right there.
Changing our attention to more positive aspects, let's talk plot. Really, this is probably the strongest element of the feature, and while it's not going to qualify for any Nobel Prize nominations anytime soon, the writers have managed to combat the exhausting length with a handful of decent storylines. The central arc, the research and containment of the virus, works and there are a nice amount of twists and impasses tossed in front of our nerd heroes as they try to defeat the contagion. These plot points intersect with the handful of side stories, completing a solid narrative web that keeps the whole enterprise chugging along until the finish line. Yeah, there are a couple of corny moments (my favorite: one-time political rivals the mayor and governor announce good news about the virus—together! They set aside their differences!), and that's to be expected for made-for-TV fare like this, but overall the juggling of multiple storylines was handled deftly.
The DVD video quality (1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen) is passable, though detailing sometimes suffers. On close inspection, you'll likely notice a grain besieging much of the on-screen action. A 5.1 surround mix is active when it needs to be specifically in the film's handful of gunfights. A behind-the-scenes feature and a set of cast interviews offer a generous helping of making-of grist to chew on. The original trailer is also included.
If you like these outbreak movies and have a large bladder I think you won't mind this sprawling TV miniseries. Acting is spotty, but the plot is serviceable and lots of suckers cough up blood.
Stop your whining and take an Advil.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Genius Products
• Making-of Featurette
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