A WARNER BROS RELEASE Directed by Wolfgang Petersen 127 min

Published: Friday 30 June 1995

THAT nightmarish faction book, The Hot Zone, told the story of the deadly Ebola virus. Now Outbreak tells us an even more horrifying story of a fictional virus, Motaba. Like Ebola, which dissolves the insides of monkeys and humans in a week or 10 days, Motaba also spreads through body fluids. But it is deadlier: it mutates into an airborne virus in a single generation. What's more, the freeloader can sponge on any part of the human body.

Fortunately, Outbreak did not recreate The Hot Zone's vivid description of the "crashing and bleeding out", in which the victim turns, literally, to mush. The director's sense of restraint saved the audiences from what could have been a nightmare they would never have outlived.

The film can be faulted, however, on the technical ground of not distinguishing between isolation and quarantine. Quarantine measures are taken in the hot zone area, where Level IV viruses are dealt with (AIDS is only a Level II virus, so imagine!). But the film makes baloney of the safety levels and oversimplifies the handling of the deadly virus.

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