Outbreak (1995)

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Date: March 10, 1995
Source: Wikipedia

Outbreak is a 1995 American disaster film starring Dustin Hoffman, Rene Russo, Morgan Freeman, and Donald Sutherland. The film was directed by Wolfgang Petersen. In addition, Outbreak features Cuba Gooding, Jr., Kevin Spacey, and Patrick Dempsey.

The film focuses on an outbreak of a fictional Ebola-like virus called Motaba in Zaire and later in a small town in the United States. Its primary settings are government disease control centers USAMRIID and the CDC, and the fictional town of Cedar Creek, California. Outbreak shows how far the military and civilian agencies might go to contain the spread of a deadly contagion.

The film was released on March 10, 1995 and proved a solid box office success. The film was nominated for various awards but failed to garner any major award nominations. It also raised various "what-if" scenarios: media outlets began to question what the government would really do in a similar situation and if the CDC has plans in case an outbreak ever does occur. A real-life outbreak of the Ebola virus occurred in Zaire only a few months after the film was released.

In 1967, Motaba, a deadly viral hemorrhagic fever, is discovered in a camp in Zaire and kept top secret. Two soldiers order the camp bombed to cover up the discovery.


Thirty years later, in 1997, the virus resurfaces in Zaire. Colonel Sam Daniels (Dustin Hoffman), a USAMRIID virologist, is sent to investigate. He and his crew gain information about the virus and return to the United States, where Daniels asks his superior, Brigadier General Billy Ford (Morgan Freeman), to put out an alert. Ford, who knows the virus is not new, tells Sam it is unlikely to show up. Meanwhile, one of the host animals, a white-headed capuchin monkey, is illegally brought to the United States. James "Jimbo" Scott (Patrick Dempsey), an employee at the Biotest animal holding facility, steals the monkey and takes it to Cedar Creek, California, to sell on the black market. During the trip, Jimbo is infected with the virus.

Jimbo unsuccessfully tries to sell the monkey to a pet store owner - who also becomes infected - before releasing the monkey into the woods. Jimbo starts to show signs of infection while flying to Boston, where he gets off the plane and kisses his girlfriend, infecting her. They are both hospitalized. A CDC scientist and Daniels' ex-wife, Robby Keough (Rene Russo), investigates the infections. Jimbo, his girlfriend, and the pet store owner die from the virus but Robby establishes that no one else in Boston was infected.

Meanwhile, the technicians at a Cedar Creek hospital run tests on the pet store owner's blood. A technician accidentally breaks a vial, splattering the contents, infecting and killing him. The virus mutates into a new strain, capable of spreading like flu, and numerous Cedar Creek citizens are exposed to Motaba. Daniels learns of the infection and flies to Cedar Creek, against Ford's orders, joining Robby's team.

Whilst Daniels and his team begin a search for the host animal, a state of martial law is declared in Cedar Creek, and the United States Army has quarantined the town to contain the outbreak. A mystery serum, E-1101, is introduced to those suffering from Motaba. Daniels soon realises the serum is not experimental, but was designed to cure Motaba, and that Ford knew about the virus beforehand. However, the serum does not help the residents of Cedar Creek, who are infected by a mutated strain. Daniels confronts Ford who admits he withheld information on the virus due to national security and Motaba's potential to be turned into a biological weapon.

Daniels learns from Ford of Operation Clean Sweep, a plan by the military to bomb the town of Cedar Creek, with approval from the President of the United States. Major General Donny McClintock (Donald Sutherland), who was Ford's partner in the African camp and was responsible for its destruction, plans to use the bombing to cover up the virus's existence to advance his weapon objective. To prevent Daniels from finding a cure, McClintock has him arrested by implicating Daniels as a carrier of the virus.

This leads the colonel and Major Salt (Cuba Gooding, Jr.) to search for the host animal to save the town. Flying a helicopter to the ship that carried the host animal, Daniels obtains a picture of the monkey and broadcasts it on the news, which a viewer realizes her daughter is playing with in their backyard. She calls the station, and the two men arrive at the family's house. The daughter coaxes out the monkey, Betsy, which Salt tranquilizes. Learning from Daniels that the host animal is captured, Ford delays the bombing.

Flying back, Daniels and Salt are confronted by McClintock, who also came by helicopter. Daniels has Salt fire two rockets into the trees to trick McClintock into thinking they crashed. Returning to Cedar Creek, Salt mixes Betsy's antibodies with the E-1101 to create an anti-serum in time to save Robby but not Major Casey Schuler (Kevin Spacey). Daniels discovers Operation Clean Sweep is in progress and becomes aware that McClintock will not call off the bombing.

He and Salt take it upon themselves to fly in the way of the bomber to stop it. With support from Ford, Daniels is able to stay in the way of the plane long enough to convince the pilot and his bombardier that information was withheld from them. The pilot detonates the bomb over water instead of the town. Ford, having had enough of McClintock's single-minded obsession, relieves McClintock of command and places him under arrest for withholding information from the President. McClintock promises to take Ford down with him. Sam and Robby make up, and the remaining residents of the town are successfully cured (Wikipedia, 2012).