“Medicine isn’t perfect — we all know that, don’t we?”
When her friend (Lois Chiles) goes into a coma during a routine operation, a medical resident (Genevieve Bujold) begins an investigation that causes everyone around her — including her boyfriend (Michael Douglas) and supervisor (Richard Widmark) — to worry she is becoming neurotic and unbalanced; but she quickly learns her concerns are legitimate, and struggles to get anyone at all to believe that healthy patients at her hospital are being deliberately killed and sent to an institute for unknown reasons.
Response to Peary’s Review:
Peary writes that this “Nancy Drew-like murder mystery” — “based on Robin Cook’s best-seller” — offers French-Canadian Genevieve Bujold “her best role in an American film” as Dr. Susan Wheeler, “an unusually appealing heroine”. He notes that the film itself “is a real nail-biter”, with director Michael Crichton putting “us in a setting where we should feel secure… and suddenly things go wrong”. Indeed, it’s genuinely freaky how plausible a scenario like this one actually is, given that we have little choice but to trust that doctors have our best interests at heart, and to accept tragic “accidents” as part of the price we pay for the advantages of modern medicine. Without unusually plucky and persistent people like Dr. Wheeler, how would we find out what our supposed medical saviors are up to?
In his review, Peary writes that while the “hospital atmosphere and operation-room scenes” are “very true to life”, “you’ll have to suspend your disbelief at every turn” — which is somewhat true but not really a problem, given how innately appealing Bujold is. (Cinematic heroines almost always manage to discover elusive information and escape by the skin of their teeth, don’t they?) Meanwhile, I disagree with Peary’s assertion that the “dialogue relating to Bujold being a woman in a man’s world” is “now trite”: regardless of how gender relations currently function in modern hospitals (and I’m sure they’re still far from ideal), there is no doubt that female doctors in the 1970s dealt with many of the patronizing and sexist attitudes Dr. Wheeler faces but refuses to accept.
Note: Watch for Tom Selleck in a pre-“Magnum, P.I.” role as a doomed patient and Ed Harris in a small role as a pathology resident.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- Genevieve Bujold as Dr. Wheeler
- Many tense, exciting scenes
- Excellent sets
Yes, as an enjoyable and gripping thriller.