I'm a fan of Robin Cook's 1977 medical mystery "Coma." It was his first smash hit which almost single handedly introduced a new sub-category into the thriller genre. It's one of the few books that I've reread several times which is not something that I do very often. I also happen to be a big supporter of Michael Crichton's film interpretation starring Genevieve Bujold and Michael Douglas. But I'm not a purist. I'm not one of those people that say a movie should never be remade. When I heard that Ridley and Tony Scott were on hand to produce a new miniseries based on this story, I was quite excited. A lot has changed in science and medicine within the last several decades, so I thought "Coma" was primed for a spiffy new updating. With a big name cast including Ellen Burstyn (who I could watch in anything), Geena Davis, James Woods and Richard Dreyfuss, this was one of my must-see TV events of the year. What could go wrong? As it turns out, a lot!
Lauren Ambrose (Six Feet Under, Torchwood: Miracle Day) stars as a med school transfer embarking on a surgical rotation in a new hospital. Her mentor is played by Steven Pasquale (Rescue Me) who seems instantly charmed by the young lady. That's not uncommon though. Ambrose is lovely, to be sure, but four guys are smitten with her in the first ten minutes of this two-parter. Anyway, the screenplay doesn't really connect these two in a believable relationship and they share little chemistry, so a void is left in the center of the narrative. There's never any reason to think he'd go out on a limb for this virtual stranger. On her first day, Ambrose sees one coma patient whom she vaguely knows. Naturally, this causes her to get unauthorized access to hospital databases to go through cases of unexplained comas. THIS IS IN THE FIRST 15 MINUTES! Why does she do this? To move the plot along. Then she immediately takes an unauthorized trip to a patient holding facility. Why does she do this? To move the plot along. Nothing is established to make any of her initial actions remotely plausible.
In a nutshell, that's the entire problem with this interpretation of "Coma." The screenplay is overheated and illogical, not a particularly good combination. Gone is any sense of subtlety or mystery. There is no growing suspicion, no uncertainty. The movie telegraphs that nefarious goings-on are obviously occurring. Ambrose is not left to uncover a mystery, to procure the evidence, or to convince us that the wild theories of her imaginings are true. The script bludgeons us with an obvious conspiracy that would be apparent to ANYONE at the hospital. There is no uncertainty. Instead the Scott brothers have opted to turn this into a more conventional thriller (even including a madman just for fun). Stylistically, the film looks good but it is just so empty headed. The bigger stars don't have much to do, but count on Burstyn to be particularly wacky.
If you are a fan of the book or previous movie, I suspect this experience will fall short for you. Truthfully, though, I can't even imagine a newbie to the material would be very interested. I watched this with someone without prior exposure to "Coma" and they bailed before the one hour point. The heart, soul, and (most importantly) brain is missing from this production. I truly think that a reimagining of "Coma" could work as a contemporary thriller. This just missed the mark on almost every level. About 1 1/2 stars, I'm in a generous mood so I'll round up. KGHarris, 9/12.