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Film: Outbreak
Try to remain calm.

Imagine you are hunting a killer. The perpetrator is insidious, invisible, and deadly. It is smart and reactive. Its victims die in horrifying pain. There is no reasoning with it, no bargaining with it, and no way to stop it. The military wants to avoid a panic. The media questions the methods being used to stop it. It is a billionth your size.

Outbreak (1995) is a suspense film starring Dustin Hoffman , Rene Russo, and Donald Sutherland (among many others-Morgan Freeman, Kevin Spacey, Cuba Gooding, Jr.) depicting a what-if scenario surrounding a deadly fictional African virus called Motaba, inspired by real-life Ebola outbreaks, and speculating on the measures taken by the military and the Center for Disease Control if such an outbreak occurred in the United States. The film was nominated for various awards but failed to garner any major award nominations. Notable in that it was set-up as a counter-production to a film adaptation of the novel The Hot Zone that never materialized.


Outbreak contains examples of:

  • Armies Are Evil: Variation. The entire U.S. Army is not evil-but General Ripper McClintock definitely is.
  • Chekhov's Skill: While going over Major Salt's personnel file, it's mentioned he's a trained helicopter pilot.
  • Could Say It But / Suspiciously Specific Denial: General Ford tells Daniels and Salt exactly how to stop the bombing run at the end of the movie, under the guise of warning them of the dire consequences of doing so.
    • McClintock immediately starts berating him for "slipping up" like that, then has a bit of a subdued Oh Crap reaction when he realizes what he's up to.
  • The Dead Have Names: Invoked by the White House Chief of Staff, dropping a stack of photos onto a conference room table:
    Those are the citizens of Cedar Creek, go ahead take a look at them - these are not statistics ladies and gentlemen - they're flesh and blood! I want you to burn those images into your memories, because they should haunt you until the day you die!
  • Divorce Is Temporary
  • The Dog Bites Back: From the moment General McClintock arrives in Cedar Creek, he treats Lt. Colonel Briggs like total crap. Just look at the grin on Briggs' face when he gets to put McClintock under arrest at the end.
  • Dramatic Drop: The mom to the little girl who has befriended a monkey she's named "Betsy" drops a plate of apple slices (complete with dramatic shattering of dishware) when she sees the announcement that the monkey is a carrier for the deadly Motaba virus.
  • Everything's Better with Monkeys: Inverted. A capuchin monkey captured in Africa for the pet trade turns out to carry Motaba, infecting the first human victims and causing the outbreak. Also played straight, though, as on the other hand she is adopted by a little girl (whose mother thinks it's an Imaginary Friend), and turns out to have the needed antibodies for the virus that the CDC need to make a cure.
  • Failsafe Failure: A lab technician is infected with The Plague when he carelessly opens and reaches into a centrifuge while it's still spinning, breaking a vial of infected blood and cutting his hand. In Real Life, lids on centrifuges lock until the spinning has completely stopped; it's impossible to open one while it's still in motion, therefore, in order to open that, the lock would have had to have been broken.
    • Later, one of the scientists gets infected when the oxygen line on his isolation suit gets stretched too far, causing the suit to rip open like it were made of tissue paper.
  • General Ripper: McClintock, whose go-to option for disease control can be summed up as "Kill It with Fire". This is because he wants Motaba as a biological weapon, which won't work if it can be cured by anyone else.
  • Infant Immortality: Played with. When Jimbo is on his flight home, already sick with Motaba (which by now the audience knows is seriously deadly), a little boy in a cowboy outfit asks for his cookie. Jimbo, despite being quite ill, playfully tells him he can have it. But his mother stops him before he can touch the infected cookie.
    • Completely inverted later in the movie, when it is mentioned two children died from the new strain of Motaba.
      • Although Dustin Hoffman's character may have been casually referring to the Patrick Dempsey character and his girlfriend. That said, given the situation, it's highly likely at least some children in the town died.
  • It's The Only Way To Be Sure: A fuel-air bomb is used to sterilize an infected camp in Africa, and another is nearly used to sterilize an American town. They do in fact have the cure for the original Motaba strain, but jump to sterilization because it would make a very effective biological weapon.
  • Just Following Orders: Daniels tears this excuse apart as he's trying to stop the town from being bombed.
  • Kill It with Fire: The government's response to a deadly viral outbreak.
  • A Million Is a Statistic: Wisely navigated when demonstrating the impact on the town's populace. The soldiers begin rounding up infectees in the quarantined small town, and we get to see only one woman say a tearful goodbye to her family. We follow her for a few minutes while they take a blood sample during her initial medical exam. There is even a close up of the phial, labeled "Sample 612". In a later scene, we see a scientist examining blood slides:
    Scientist: "Sample 607: Infected. 608: Infected. 609: Infected. *Frustrated sigh* They can't all be infected. 610... Infected. 611...Infected. 612... Damn! Still infected!"
    • We're later treated to a shot of her in a body bag.
  • Misplaced Wildlife: A capuchin monkey is a New World Monkey, not native to Africa where Jimbo gets it from.
  • No FEMA Response: The city is quarantined, and then the plan is to Fuel Air Bomb it to stop the infection from spreading.
  • No Ontological Inertia: Once the protagonist has found and isolated the antibody from the monkey's blood serum, by the next scene there's enough antiserum for all those infected (how?). Once injected into the dying people, it instantly cures them and everything shortly thereafter has returned to normal, with no lasting ill effects.
  • Obstructive Bureaucrat: Daniels encounters one of these, but convinces him to cut the crap by informing him that he has come all the way from the disease-infected city, clutching the man's hands very earnestly, and offering to cough on him if he doesn't believe him.
  • Oh Crap:
    Col. Danials:"It's Airborne!"
  • The Oner: The credits sequence, which has a camera going through the Army biological hazards lab, with helpful subtitles showing which specific Biohazard level people work on.
  • The Plague: Motaba.
  • Refuge in Audacity: How Daniels gets onto the military flight to Cedar Creek.
  • Revealing Coverup: Ford provides the team with a serum derived from the Motaba samples taken back in the Sixties, which they find out works just fine against the first, un-mutated strain. Daniels' insistence in finding out where it came from puts Ford in a rut of increasingly Implausible Deniability.
  • Scare Chord: Used somewhat effectively when Casey collapses as a result of the infection.
  • Screw the Rules, I'm Doing What's Right: Daniels does this so much that his superiors just barely tolerate him. If he weren't as good as he is, he'd probably be reassigned or discharged.
  • Second Law of Metafictional Thermodynamics: Subverted. The viewers were given plenty of information about the residents of the town about to be bombed. So naturally the day is saved.
  • Sophisticated as Hell: Daniels' response to being ordered not to interfere with the bombing of a small town:
    "General McClintock, with all due respect, fuck you. Sir."
  • Sting: These are used practically all the time. And I do mean all the time.
  • Too Dumb to Live: The guy who thought firing on a military attack chopper, which had already fired warning shots at his truck, was a good idea. Suffice it to say he did not live long after that.
  • With Due Respect: See Sophisticated as Hell, above.
  • Working with the Ex: Daniels works with his ex-wife Robby. Naturally, they get back together at the end of the movie.
  • Your Cheating Heart: Actually works in Daniels' favor in trying to get the name of the boat Jimbo was on:
    Mrs. Pananides: I have a friend in the Coast Guard I could call.
    Daniels: How close a friend?
    Mrs. Pananides: Closer than his wife would like...

Operation: Dumbo DropFilms of the 1990sParty Girl

alternative title(s): Outbreak
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