Coma [1978]

Genre: Drama, Mystery, Sci-Fi
Something is awry at Boston General Hospital. Dr. Wheeler's (Genevieve Bujold) friend Nancy goes in for a routine procedure, but never comes out of the anesthesia and slips into a coma. Wheeler learns that a tissue sample from the young woman went to the lab, then soon finds out that a high number of patients have become comatose recently. She digs a little deeper and finds a conspiracy mired in hospital politics, running afoul of the head of anesthesia, Dr. George (Rip Torn) and the head of surgery, Dr. Harris (Richard Widmark). Nobody believes the young MD, not even her boyfriend Dr. Bellows (Michael Douglas), but she soon uncovers a black-market trade in body parts, conducted offsite at the Jefferson Institute, a state-of-the-art coma-care facility. As a thriller, Coma certainly has its moments (the scene where a hit man is buried under a pile of frozen-stiff cadavers is an inspired touch), but it's not without its problems. Director Michael Crichton is an MD himself, and the film has a seamless, almost mechanical structure and plotline (taken from the Robin Cook novel). However, the movie's cold, detached feel works against it at times, making the suspense scenes oddly more effective but rendering the emotional content of the characters rather flat. Douglas in particular seems to not put much into his performance; Bujold, on the other hand, is strong and resourceful as the movie's protagonist. More telling, perhaps, is the way that the story shows its age in a time when medical ethics have changed and the phrase "organ harvesting" has made its way into our lexicon. --Jerry Renshaw

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