THIS VIRUS ISN'T CATCHING

OUTBREAK IS A PALLID EPIC ABOUT AN APPALLING EPIDEMIC

YOUNG, GUNG-HO MAJOR SALT (Cuba Gooding Jr.) is eager to impress his bosses by describing the fatal cunning of the Motaba virus-how it rapidly turns a healthy body into a bloody, pustulous corpse. "That's very good, Major," says Colonel Sam Daniels (Dustin Hoffman) wryly. "We've read that in a book too."

Not quite. They--or, rather, producer Arnold Kopelson--read it in a New Yorker article in 1992. "Crisis in the Hot Zone," Richard Preston's true story about the near escape of the Ebola virus from a Virginia lab, threw Hollywood into a bidding frenzy, and Kopelson was one of the pursuers. When...

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