Suspenseful and intelligent, Coma is one of the best seventies thrillers leaning heavily towards the horror genre. It proves that some movies can be just as unnerving and relevant after all this time. And after all the advances we saw in medicine. There’s something inherently discomforting about doctors and hospitals. At least from a perspective of an ordinary citizen, as I’m sure professionals in this field don’t have these issues. After all, we’ve seen so many doctors casually eating sandwiches during autopsies that we know better.
First of all, I think that Coma is not the right title for this movie. I know it instantly piques your interest but still. It’s just so fucking revealing and they could’ve easily used something more ambiguous like Procedure or They Know Best. We will be following one doctor’s quest to discover why people keep falling into comas in her hospital. After countless television shows and movies about hospitals and doctors, it’s easy to forget just how intriguing a movie like this would have been back then. This also means you can kind of guess where they’re going with the story but that won’t spoil the atmosphere.
It’s based on a novel and directed by Michael Crichton, the guy who would become famous because of his writing skills. Jurassic Park, Sphere, and The 13th Warrior are all, for example, based on his novels. It turns out he’s a decent director too. The cast of Coma is also pretty good. We have young Michael Douglas and Rip Torn complimented by the star of the show, Geneviève Bujold. Character development is just pure perfection and it helped build this incredibly intense atmosphere. The claustrophobic and sterile hospital setting only amplified it. Granted, the first half of the movie is a bit slower but things do get better in the second half.
Meet Dr. Susan Wheeler, a young woman working as a surgical resident at Boston Memorial Hospital. Everything seems to be going well in her life. She loves her job and has a steady but secretive relationship with one of her colleagues. However, after her best friend falls into a coma following a routine procedure, Susan is devastated. Determined to find out what happened, she starts looking for answers. What she will find will not only shock her but also put her life at risk.
Coma immediately starts building this authentic picture of the inner working of the hospital. This gives the movie a sense of credibility as it slowly starts walking you over to the dark side. You should also know that Crichton went to medical school and Cook is actually a surgeon. So, between the two of them, they had a lot of knowledge about this issue. There’s also a degree of subtlety and elegance when it comes to storytelling. It feels natural and it’s easy to follow. All of this provides you with one hell of an immersive experience. If you’re looking for a more modern thriller featuring a similar vibe take a look at Fractured starring Sam Worthington.
There’s one scene in this movie that will simply blow you away. It feels ominous and futuristic at the same time. And it still packs quite the punch after more than forty years. It’s also thought-provoking and I’m not talking about just that scene but the very concept of coma. Of being in this state where you’re technically alive but not conscious. Moreover, the main plot of Coma opens a whole ‘nother can of worms. One that we’ve seen opened quite a few times in recent years. And I’m almost certain that something like this has been going on for quite a while. To discover what that is, you will have to check out this engaging thriller. Enjoy.
Director: Michael Crichton
Writers: Michael Crichton, Robin Cook
Cast: Geneviève Bujold, Michael Douglas, Rip Torn, Elizabeth Ashley, Richard Widmark, Hari Rhodes