Coma was a movie with Michael Douglas in the 70’s. It has now been redone as a miniseries with a running time of 160 minutes in 2012. It has a large and familiar cast including JamesWoods, Geena Davis, Richard Dreyfuss, Joe Morton, and Ellen Burstyn, but the lead is Lauren Ambrose (Six Feet Under) who plays a surgical intern at an institute that is named after his grandfather. The institute is world famous for being the best place to care for patients in an advanced vegetative state, or in other words, coma. It is based on a novel by Robin Cook who is known for his medical thrillers.
The Jefferson Institute has been under scrutiny by investigative journalists because it houses its patients at a fraction of the cost of other facilities. For those of you who are not already familiar with the story, I won’t say more. It is simply important that you know that this is a breakneck thriller full of the worst kinds of villains. It was produced by Scott Free, the company run by two world famous directors, Ridley and Tony Scott. Tony Scott has been in the news recently for committing suicide at 68 with a heavy roster of planned films including Top Gun 2 with Tom Cruise. The mystery of his death casts a shadow over this production full of dangerous conspiracies.
The issues, responsibilities, and complexities of the medical world are fully explored in this expanded story. We are treated to the real world of cutthroat hospital politics with layer and layer of intrigue heaped on. The difficulties of third year medical students are well known and play a large part here.
Ambrose is the one who starts noticing the high percentage of accidents leading to comas. The rest of the young cast is hard to read. Which ones are going to be the bad guys or the good guys or the victims? So then it becomes our job to see who the bad guys are going to be with the veteran cast. It’s good to see Geena Davis. I haven’t seen her in a while, and she looks great. The story paints her as a power-hungry manipulator early on, but all of the big names seem to be placed in grey areas in which they could go either way. James Rebhorn is an other familiar face who starts to conduct an investigation into why Ambrose is poking into the privacy of the patients. James Woods intervenes in a grand manner. He seems to be a loose cannon who can go either way.
Ellen Burstyn seems to be the first line of defense to the institute’s secrets. Tours are conducted under extremely tight protocols. On one such tour we see the pristine, almost ideal conditions in which the bodies have been kept. But is it the truth? We have already seen earlier that some of the attendants are a thuggish and surly lot. Ambrose goes off the tour and roams freely, and security is alerted and all hell breaks loose. This is at about the halfway point.
It should be noted that although this is written to be highly accurate about medical issues, it is first and foremost a thriller. It is meant to raise the goosebumps on our skin. It has been made for TV as well, so it does get a little cheesy and over the top in its thrills, but that is mostly because that’s what people want in a thriller.
It also feeds into a culture more and more aware and accepting of conspiracy theories. It seems that the rich and powerful are capable of anything in this new climate. Just be aware of one thing. Beware of operating room 8. Hey, that’s what it says on the cover of this DVD.