Sublime is a red hot tamale hidden within the predominantly bland cheese pizza of the horror industry. Some like it, some hate it, but no one forgets the unexpected taste of it. I do not like the box cover, though -- to me, at least, the image conveys the notion of cutting and scarring, and that made me expect this film to be some kind of slasher film -- psychological, of course, but still a slasher. Well, it's not a slasher; I would classify it as horror, though -- definitely; it's just a deeply psychological, symbolic type of horror that actually plays quite effectively. I should note that there are a few scenes of a medically gruesome nature, which may have squeamish folks squirming, but this story is not about blood and gore at all. I haven't seen the commentary on the DVD, which is probably both fortunate as well as unfortunate. While I would be very interested in hearing the director and writer explain their insights into the story, the rabble I hear about one of them saying the unfortunate main character of this film somehow represents George W. Bush leaves me happy to enjoy the film as it was, free of any directorial politics. I see no connection whatsoever to my President in this film, and I'm happy to keep it that way (putting such a political spin on the film I saw seems utterly inane from my perspective). This is a rare case when I believe the commentary can actually harm your enjoyment and impressions of a film.
It would be a crying shame for any reviewer to divulge any spoilers about this film, so I'm rather limited in what I can talk about. At its most basic level, Sublime is the story of a man who goes in to the hospital for a routine colonoscopy, but -- to his great misfortune -- that routine procedure ends up being the polar opposite of routine. Mistakes do happen, you know, resulting in as many as 100,000 deaths a year from what I have read (remember the case of doctors at Duke essentially killing a young girl by performing a heart and lung transplant with organs of the wrong blood type?). George Grieves (Thomas Cavanagh) knows something is wrong as soon as he wakes up. He's sweating like a hog, has an extraordinarily suspicious scar on his lower left abdomen (that would really be taking the long way to the colon), and he's sort of shoved off on the wrong floor across from the mysterious closed wing of the hospital. There's no sign of his family or his doctor -- just his nurse Zoe (Katherine Cunningham-Eves) and an exceedingly suspicious male nurse or orderly who makes George increasingly uneasy every time he comes by to change the IV bag. Zoe happens to be everything I would want in a nurse, but even her uber-fine-ness can't make a dent in the anxiety and fear George is suddenly feeling. Little does he know that the worst -- and plenty of it -- is still to come. Basically, all of his deepest fears begin to realize themselves before his eyes, with virtually every new shock playing out against flashbacks of his fortieth birthday party the night before his "test." Meanwhile, one medical mistake builds upon another, leaving George essentially trapped in a terrifying situation he can't understand. Surreality doesn't even begin to describe the ordeal he has to endure.
Like it or not, the success of a movie such as Sublime hinges almost completely on the conclusion. How many great films have we seen utterly destroyed by a terrible ending? Thankfully, Sublime really delivers at crunch time; while some viewers may successfully predict how it all plays out, the film definitely takes the road less traveled rather than selling out in the final moments. That's really important to me.
Different aspects of this story can and probably will be debated by those who see the film. Personally, I think the filmmakers cast the net of George's fears a little too wide, as I see no reason why race was thrown into the mix. I saw no real context for it, leaving me to interpret it as the product of an agenda on the part of the writer and director -- and, for me, that took a little something away from the film. Still, whatever excesses the film might have, they are borne of a remarkable boldness in both storyline and presentation, and that is what makes Sublime such an unforgettable film.