30 years after a village in Zaire was fire bombed following the discovery of an extreme virus called Motabo the virus is discovered to have surfaced again. Believed to be contained in Zaire the virus unfortunately makes it to America in an infected monkey caught in the wild. Before long the virus is spreading but also mutating as it becomes airborne. Scientist Sam Daniels (Dustin Hoffman - Hook) and his recently divorced wife Robby Keough (Rene Russo - In the Line of Fire) along with Sam's team start the mad hunt not only to find the root of the virus but also come up with an antidote. But unbeknown to Sam is the militaries involvement in Motabo including his boss General Billy Ford (Morgan Freeman - The Shawshank Redemption) and his superior General Donald McClintock (Donald Sutherland - Disclosure).
Let me tell you what the problem is with "Outbreak" it is "Hollywood". But before I get to that let me tell you what we have here, a potentially clever movie which covers a lot of areas. There is a disaster movie with the spread of the virus leading to potential deaths whilst this nicely leads into an element of fear factor as civilians panic at the rampant outbreak of this virus leading to military intervention to try and control the situation. But we also have a military corruption storyline going on with General's carrying out secret test on the virus which they discovered 30 years earlier. And just for good measure we have an added complexity with two experts who have just got divorced but have feelings for each other.
All of the above could have combined to create a genuinely exciting thriller which plays on the fear of a pandemic sweeping across a nation due to a tropical disease. But as I said "Outbreak" has a problem and that is "Hollywood" especially 90's "Hollywood". That means we have dialogue which is far too cool and comical, we also have characters which simply don't ring true especially in the way they joke about and of course we get big action scenes. As I said it is typical of Hollywood from the 90s but it turns what could have been a truly great thriller oozing with atmosphere into a blockbuster oozing with cliche and big production scenes.
Despite my frustration with the Hollywood-isation of what could have been a great movie there is no denying that "Outbreak" is still entertaining. Much of why it entertains is because of the cast which have come together as whilst the characters are too cool and comical the likes of Dustin Hoffman, Rene Russo, Kevin Spacey and especially Donald Sutherland make them entertaining. Oh and there is also Betsy, the white-headed capuchin Monkey, one talented little performer who many might remember as Ross's monkey in "Friends".
What this all boils down to is that "Outbreak" is certainly entertaining but it is also typical of 90s Hollywood and as such there are aspects of it which are just wrong and spoil what could have been an intense thriller.