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Outbreaks and Safety Concerns in Biodefense Research

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The premise of Outbreak, which owes something to Elia Kazan's 1950 plague-scare movie, Panic in the Streets, is as terrifying as it is timely. As developers slash their way deeper into the previously unexplored tropical rainforests, they are exposed to radically new forms of life, including diseases, that in these days of commonplace international travel could turn into deadly epidemics almost before we know it. Hoffman's character and his estranged wife (Rene Russo) are disease experts called in to identify the unknown killer, which was carried into the country by an illegally smuggled monkey. The best sequence shows the disease spreading--through recycled air on a passenger jet, or a sneeze in a crowded movie theater. The final chase is pretty conventional, but the cast is terrific, including Morgan Freeman, Kevin Spacey, Donald Sutherland, Cuba Gooding Jr., J.T. Walsh, and Zakes Mokae.

--review by Jim Emerson,