on February 25, 2004
I discovered by chance that this 1978 thriller with Michael Douglas was written and directed by Michael Crichton, who was himself a qualified medical doctor, but this film would have one believe that he had no love lost for his original profession (as would "The Andromeda Strain".)
Coma despite being an "old" movie by many standards, is surprisingly fascinating on DVD. Crichton gets good performances from the whole cast, with Genevieve Bujold, in particular, reminding us of what a fine actress she can be. As a doctor suspicious of certain goings-on in her hospital but disbelieved by everyone around her, she shows courage and determination (without ever losing her femininity) which is welcome in a female lead. She finds herself forced to question her own sense of perspective, even her sanity, as she struggles to uncover the mystery of comatose patients that surround her.
There's one sizeable twist towards the latter half of the movie, but you generally know what's going to happen. The beauty of this movie is in the overall execution -- it's VERY well done.
Recommended rental. Especially for the medically inclined.
on May 6, 2004
I discovered this film when I was in desperate need of some blank tapes. All the local shops were closed, but I managed to find a bunch of used tapes in a second hand shop for about 50p.
Anyway, I bought them and went home with the intention of taping over them. When I got back, my brother was curious to see what was on them. First tape he stuck in was Coma. He had already seen it years earlier, and wouldn't let me tape over it.
So I didn't. And I'm glad I didn't, because what a great movie it is.
It's odd to see films like this nowadays. I get so used to modern Hollywood melo dramas, with there laugh a minute format, that when I see a film like Coma, it reminds how much better a serious film is, when it's actually serious.
And it's so true. Crighton paces this film very well, it keeps you on your toes throughout the whole thing, and it never fails to be interesting.
It's even got some X Files espionage type moments, that I can't help but enjoy.
Anyway, without giving anything away, let me just tell you that you won't regret buying or renting this film.
It's a breath of fresh air, or, it was anyway.
on February 29, 2004
I first saw Coma sometime in the mid 80's, at a time when the VHS format was king, and to be honest, my memories of the film were fuzzy at best. With that in mind, I decided to give it a look, knowing that popular figure Michael Crichton was behind the camera, made me even more curious to see it again.
Based on the best-selling novel by Robin Cook, Coma tells a creepy tale and is a solid thriller, though not without its problems. Dr. Susan Wheeler (Genevieve Bujold) suspects her colleagues of foul play when her closest friend lapses into a coma following a routine operation. When Wheeler discovers an alarming pattern of unexplained comas in her hospital, she becomes obsessed with finding an answer, even when it puts her own career and life in danger. Her lover, Dr. Bellows (Michael Douglas), admits there is a mystery but doubts there is a conspiracy and even suspects Wheeler of suffering from a mental breakdown.
While I never read Mr. Cook's novel, having Michael Crichton, as a former physcian, adapt the script and direct the film seemed like the right way to go. The film boasts fine performances from Bujold, Douglas, and the "creepy" Richard Widmark as Dr. Harris. Composer Jerry Goldsmith gives the movie another stellar score adding to the chills factor. All of that being said, I still noticed some problems with pacing and other technical gaffes that could have been avoided. Thanfully, there's not enough of these problems, to be of any real concern.
The DVD loses points from me, because, of the lack of any real extras. All you will be treated to, is your standard, run of the mill, theatrical trailer. I would have been interested to hear some comments from Crichton, about the film and his take on it now, given the time that has passed. A missed opportunity---in my opinion. Special Edition anyone? Viewers can choose to see the film in either the widescreen, or pan and scan formats.
Coma is an apt thriller that acts as a metaphor for the state of medicine, that is as notable even today. Recommended, especially to those interested in following Crichton's film work.
on February 17, 2004
For a period in the 1970s, it looked as if Michael Crichton was on his way to becoming a film director instead of the author of popular science-thrillers that he is principally known as today. He had a hit with the robot science-fiction meets the Western flick with "Westworld" in 1973, and he followed it up with this medical thriller in 1978. Based on a book by another M.D.-turned-novelist, Robin Cook, "Coma" is an entertaining suspenser with some good performances and nice pacing, helped immensely by Crichton's expertise on the medical profession and the politics of working in a hospital.
Unfortunately, "Coma" is one of those films that's good enough to make you wish it could have been even better. You feel satisfied with the viewing experience, but feel that the movie could have pushed itself even farther and turned from a good film into a very good film. The potential is certainly there, with a fun conspiracy plotline (Why are supposedly healthy people at a Boston hospital falling into irreversible comas? What is the purpose of the freaky, mysterious Jefferson Institute to where the coma patients are being shipped?), its level of paranoia (no one believes heroine Genevieve Bujold's suspicions -- or perhaps everyone around her is in on it), and Crichton's perfectly realistic representation of medical jargon and the workings of a busy hospital (a prelude to his television creation, E.R.). Many of the performances are excellent as well, especially Michael Douglas as Bujold's ambitious doctor boyfriend, Richard Widmark as the chief surgeon, and Elizabeth Ashley as the nearly robotic and incredibly frightening head of the Jefferson Institute. Rip Torn also pops in for a brief but noticeable role as the gruff head of anesthesia. (And hey, look, it's Tom Selleck in a brief appearance an an unfortunate patient!) The score by Jerry Goldsmith is also deliciously suspenseful and takes an unusual approach (no music at all for the first forty-five minutes, then almost non-stop growing fear through pounding pianos and creepy strings).
But "Coma" is often too cold, too distant, and Bujold's performance is too one-note and disinterested to make the film work as well as it could. Crichton also handles many of the scenes in a flat, pedestrian manner; he has trouble dealing with the character-driven scenes, and really needs actors like Michael Douglas and Rip Torn to carry these sequences. Except for the scenes at the Jefferson Institute and its ghastly "hanging room" (the film's best set-piece), the whole movie has a bland, flat look that makes it feel as if it were shot for television. And the final twist in the story won't surprise anybody.
But I still recommend "Coma" as an entertaining thriller. Even if you can see the surprise revelation coming long before the heroine does, the actual finale is a squirmy, suspenseful bit that plays off everyone's hidden fear of hospitals in general and surgery specifically. And Crichton's attention to realism in his setting puts the film far ahead of most of the overactive, loud and obnoxious thrillers released today. People in the medical profession in particular will enjoy the movie, but even if you can't tell a stethoscope from syringe, you'll find yourself enjoyably drawn into the mystery of "Coma." (Don't expect much in the way of extras on this DVD -- they're really aren't any. Commentary from Crichton would have been extremely interesting, but alas, nothing.)
on January 8, 2004
"Coma" is based on the novel by Robin Cook, and a thoroughly fun read has become a thoroughly fun movie. Set in Boston Memorial Hospital, it tells the tale of a female doctor who begins to suspect the unthinkable when two patients in two days become comatose during minor procedures. Genevieve Bujold plays the doctor and Michael Douglas, also portraying a doctor, is her lover who initially doubts her. Naturally the males in the film believe Bujold is having an emotional reaction, since one of the coma patients was Bujold's best friend. But the film proceeds at a brisk clip with many hair-raising and cliff-hanging turns, all of them delicious and exciting, as Bujold stubbornly follows up on her suspicions. What can be better than Bujold escaping the sinister Jefferson Institute, where the coma patients mysteriously are transferred, clinging to the siren on top of an ambulance? The suspense is well handled, but there are other delights that have to do with the 70's. FOr instance, all the instances of characters having "real" conversations -- something that was so popular in the 70's -- nurses hanging around the locker rooms or over surgery, discussing their home lives -- in a way that sounds completely and amusingly staged and artificial. And Bujold, with the feminist movement new, is so aggressive in her attempt to prove herself in a man's world to the point of coming off cold and hostile, yet ultimately she becomes a classic female hysteric whose boyfriend comes to the rescue. Still, it doesn't detract from the fun, because Bujold is also bold and the heroine who dares to blow the whistle and risk her life to uncover the mystery. As Leonard Maltin said, this film combines the best of medical films with mystery and suspense, so it's a double delight.
on November 14, 2002
After his success with the 1973 sci-fi thriller "Westworld" director Michael Crichton followed up with 1978's "Coma". In the earlier film he dazzled us with a fantastic futuristic vacation resort that turns against it's patrons. Here Crichton depicts the medical care system as a treacherous terrain where some patients may fall victim to odious conspiracy's.
Most people quite naturally experience an overwhelming fear of being defenseless and vulnerable while at the mercy of a hospital staff when they are admitted for surgery. Crichton explores this tendency of ours to suffer anxiety and apprehension at this prospect without being exploitative. He carefully crafts a believable scenario and we soon become caught in the same tangled web as the lead character Dr. Susan Wheeler, played marvelously by Genevieve Bujold. Wheeler is a bright, strong willed, liberated woman who supports herself and can withstand a challenge from her current boyfriend Dr. Mark Bellows, well played by Michael Douglas. Crichton received both critical praise and public criticism for the movie's portrayal of such an emancipated heroine, a role which has fortunately become more standard in the years that have followed.
When Wheeler's friend Mary is admitted to the hospital for an abortion Mary expresses her fears to Wheeler who assures her it is a routine operation and that she shouldn't feel a need to worry. Something does go wrong with the operation however and Mary falls into a coma, shortly afterward she dies. This event doesn't seem possible to Wheeler and out of curiousity she reviews Mary's medical records and notices inconsistencies and inquires about them. This sequence begins what will become a complicated and formidable investigation that she proves completely capable of following through on. Her defiance is so threatening that soon a predator is stalking her intending on silencing her permanently and she handles this situation resolutely, fighting against her fears and facing the enemy.
Crichton presents coherent, edifying scenes of doctors, interns and nurses going about their daily duties that adds authenticity to the film. The anesthesia explanation is well written and necessary for our understanding of the plot. The Jefferson Institute complex is the film's great set piece. It stands isolated in a lush green valley looking sterile and impersonal, matching the cold treatment that Wheeler has been receiving from her male superiors who she has been reporting her findings to. The building also adds a striking Gothic horror feel to the movie; the sight of bodies suspended by wires from the ceiling is eerie, chilling and unforgettable.
"Coma" also features splendid supporting peformances by many recognizable faces. Tom Selleck has a brief bit as a patient who is victimized; Ed Harris appears as a Pathology resident - with a headful of hair!; Rip Torn plays Dr. George, the hospital's Chief of Anesthesiology, who Wheeler suspects; Elizabeth Ashley is the autocratic and apparently soulless head of Jefferson Institute. But it's Richard Widmark who makes the strongest impression as the hospital's administrator, Dr. Harris. His final self-righteous discourse to Bujold, as she slowly succumbs to poisoning, is memorable - he brazenly explains away ethics as if they were a mere contrivance. It's at this point you realize that throughout the film he has been dispensing his diabolical medical elitism with all the ease and grace of a seasoned diplomat.
Mysteriously, Crichton chooses to film a climax that has Wheeler falling into an all too familiar 'damsel in distress' situation where she needs to be rescued by a man. But the sight of her lying helpless on the operating table makes your heart pump with fear and anxiety, creating another of the film's most effective moments. Not one of us wants to be this completely helpless and vulnerable!
"Coma" remains a top-notch medical thriller today despite it's lack of special effects that today's sophisticated audiences demand from this genre. Still, it remains largely unknown, enjoying a bit of cult movie status among the moviegoers who came of age in the 70's.
One final note: People often mistakenly credit Crichton for writing the book upon which the film "Coma" is based. Actually Robin Cook is the book's author although I can see why people would easily make this incorrect distinction due to some similarities between them. They each have a medical degree and earlier in his career Crichton penned a handful of novels that had a medical setting and wrote the non-fiction book "Five Patients" as well.
on October 29, 2002
Writer/director Michael Crichton's second film was an adaption of Robin Cook's bestselling novel. Michael Douglas plays the role of the heroine while Geneviene Bujold has the hero's role in this role reversal thriller. This was made prior to Douglas becoming a break out star. There are a number of fine performances including a great turn by the always interesting Rip Torn.
The extras are slim; we get the trailer and both the widescreen and standard versions of the movie. No director's commentary or observations from the cast; no "making of" documentary (or promo fluff piece for that matter). Which is a pity as this fine thriller does deserve better but then that was SOP when DVD's started coming out.
You can't argue with the price nor with Crichton's direction. He really never got any better than this as a director (although there are a couple of films like The Great Train Robbery that hold up to this and Westworld). Crichton isn't a great film director (he's a better writer) but he gets the job done. Coma will keep you guessing.
on October 6, 2000
Sleek, stylish and staring a then up-and-coming Michael Douglas, Coma does for going under the knife what Psycho did...(you can fill in the rest). Bujold stars as a doctor who begins to suspect her hospital is drugging patients into comas after a friend of hers, going in for a supposedly routine operation, comes out comatose. Her coworkers label her paranoid but as in Rosemary's Baby (which it's compreable to) it's the ones who know she's telling the truth that she's frightened of. The suspense mounts at a methodical pace, don't be fooled it can be sluggish but hopefully by the time it's begun to drag it's feet a bit you'll be hooked. Michael Crichton (yes, the same man that wrote the wildly successful Jurassic Park and it's sequel) steps behind the camera and does an equally impressive job. He doesn't dumb down for the audience and at times fools us into thinking we'll have a moment to catch our breaths but instead thrusts us right back into the tension-packed enviornment which seems to linger from start to finish. The DVD isn't anything too special but if you've ever seen the VHS version you'll know to appreiciate the digital transfer. It's a top notch thriller that's easily as good as the Robin Cook novel.
on April 16, 2000
Micheal Chichton(West World) did the film Screenplay and He also Directed the film, Thought this film is NOT, Based on one of his Novels(Jurassic Park,Rising Sun, Disclosure,The 13th Warrior). The Film, based on the novel by Robin Cook.
This is a Medical Thriller about a Female Doctor, Played by Genevieve Bujold(EarthQuake, David Cronenberg`s Dead Ringers) about Increasingly Patients are falling in to Comas. She investage by Herself to Find Out Why? and Nobody Believe her story, could lead to a Possible Conspiracy Plot, Doctors are Murdering The Patients are putting them to Comas, Not Even her Doctor Boy Friend, Played by Micheal Douglas(The War Of The Roses, The Game, Wonder Boys).
This Smart Thriller, i seen it for the recently shown in a Movie Channel. Look For Early Very Small Roles, Before and Ed Harris(The Knightraiders,Creep Show, The Abyss and The Truman Show). Grade:B+.
on October 27, 2001
Based on Robin Cooks noval . Anybody who likes thrillers is in for a treat. What also makes this a great film is that the main character is played by a woman (Geneieve Bujold) it's got non of that macho stuff involved in it's storyline but that's not to saying she doesn't fight back she kick some butt and isn't afraid to speak out. If I gave any of the plot away it would greatly hurt the films impact.The hospital is very creepy and the main character goes through a lot of stuff on her jounrney to finding out who's putting healthy people under ereversible coma's.
Victor J. Kemper did the Cinematography and Gerald Hirschfeld did the sequence were the coma victims are kept. production design is by Albert Brenner and it was edited by David Bretherton
directed by Michael Crichton.