Setups and Payoffs: Contagion

Here’s another Setups and Payoffs chart.

This time we’re looking at perhaps my favorite movie of 2011 — Contagion! I fell in love with this movie right away. It’s got great actors, a rollicking high concept and a near perfect story. The only major payoff it’s missing is Leonora the WHO worker going back to her former kidnappers and warn them that the vaccines they received are fake. But, that’s a small problem in an otherwise well crafted story. Here’s what it looks like:

Again, it goes:

00:00 Setup ——– Payoff (time of payoff moment) [time elapsed since setup moment]

Also: Act # break (time of act break) [length of act]


Pretty strong.

Maybe not as tight as Back to the Future (which has a setup about every thirty seconds for the whole first act and then a few after that) but not bad either. Interestingly, Contagion continues setting things up through about the first half of the movie, even after it’s started paying various things off. Maybe they have to continue plodding away at setting various bits up because they have so many different characters with their own story lines; it takes a long time to really get everybody’s story moving. It would be interesting separate this out by different characters and see what the shapes of the individual stories look like.


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