Rated: R for obscenities and graphic scenes. Reviewed by: Chris Release date: March 10, 1995 Released by: Warner Brothers
There's something quite frightening about an enemy that travels through the air unseen, is invincible to the most hi-tech artillery and kills everyone it comes in contact with. Dustin Hoffman as Col. Sam Daniels, M.D., an Army virologist has the huge task of tracking down just such an invisible enemy in this exciting thriller.
A virus is killing everyone in a small California town and Dr. Daniels fears that it's "Motaba" a deadly strain that he saw the horrible effects of in Zaire. Daniels and his ex-wife Robbie (Rene Russo), a top executive at the Center For Disease Control, have to find how the virus traveled to the U.S., and stop its spread.
They trace it to a small frisky monkey that is let loose in the California suburbs. If they can find the animal in time, an antidote can be produced to combat the killer. But, Daniels and his team have more than the airborne culprit to contend with. He also has to battle General McClintock (played by the seriously sinister Donald Sutherland). The general is willing to sacrifice the entire town by leveling it with a bomb and therefore keep the virus as a future biological warfare weapon
Th premise is very believable and with AIDS such a devastating reality, the film strikes a chilling note. The virus attacks the victims from the inside and works itself outward. The effects, as described by the doctors, sound worse than the look of the actual victims.
Director Wolfgang Peterson keeps you on the edge of your seat as Daniels and his helicopter pilot cohort (played by feisty, humorous Cuba Gooding, Jr.) zoom around the countryside dodging Army helicopters while trying to find the source of the virus and stop the bombing of the unsuspecting town and save the world - all at the same time.
Even though the virus is the main story, the characters are given personal lives and Hoffman adds his own individual touch to this unlikely hero. Daniels reacts from his sense of what he believes is right and not because of the usual macho baloney. He has good friends (underused Kevin Spacey), a failed marriage with a woman whom he still loves and a quirky sense of humor. Dr. Daniels is a complete, interesting character and Hoffman does a wonderful job portraying him. Morgan Freeman is also good as a sincere general who tries to straddle the fence between his military orders and the moral thing to do.
Outbreak has everything a great thriller should. It has a complex enemy, entertaining characters and exciting, race-against-the-clock action.