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Critical Care

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R
1997

Critical Care from 1997 is a medical satire that balances humor and drama in a manner only director Sidney Lumet could achieve. The film stars James Spader, known for his roles in nuanced dramas, as the lead character, Dr. Werner Ernst, a resident internist. The movie also showcases powerful performances from Kyra Sedgwick, Helen Mirren, and a host of other well-known actors.

The movie uses the surreal, chaotic, and occasionally daunting backdrop of a big city hospital's intensive care unit (ICU) as the stage for this engrossing narrative. The ICU, where critical patients are treated, is always filled with high stakes, where life and death situations are the daily routine.

In the film, James Spader's character, Dr. Ernst, faces a profound moral and ethical dilemma when he becomes entangled in the case of a particular patient. The patient, Mr. Potter, is an elderly, bed-ridden man kept on life support in a permanently vegetative state. The crux of the film centers around whether to maintain his support, with no hope of recovery, or to withdraw it, thus ending his life, touching on the universally complex themes surrounding life, death, morality, and ethics in medical care.

The peculiar spot of this young, ambitious doctor intensifies when he meets the two antagonistic sisters of Mr. Potter, played by Kyra Sedgwick and Margo Martindale. While one sister, Felicia Potter (Martindale), insists on continued care to protect her father's life, the other sister, Connie Potter (Sedgwick), argues that their father wouldn't want to be artificially kept alive in his current condition. The contradicting desires of the sisters put Dr. Ernst in a serious quandary, leading him further down the twisted corridors of ethical decision making.

Here enters Helen Mirren's character, Nurse Stella, a senior ICU nurse with a no-nonsense attitude and deep compassion for the patients. As an experienced and influential force in the hospital, she provides support, guidance, and oddly enough, a sense of romantic tension for Dr. Ernst during his perplexing journey.

Director Sidney Lumet, known for his films such as Network and Dog Day Afternoon, infuses the often grim medical scenario with satirical humor, intending to lighten the unavoidable heavy themes that run throughout the film. Lumet also uses surrealistic elements with dream sequences visualizing the internal conflicts and fear of the young doctor. These sequences add a layer of psychological complexity to the narrative while offering the audience a pause and respite from the harsh realities of an ICU.

With a script written by Steven Schwartz and based on the novel by Richard Dooling, Critical Care is both a delightful satire and a thought-provoking exploration of serious ethical issues. The plot unfolds against the backdrop of a commercial healthcare system and implicitly questions the motivations, ethical implications, and decisions made within its walls.

Despite its satirical tone, Critical Care does not shy away from thought-provoking themes and moral quandaries. It delves into the issues of medical ethics, the concept of euthanasia, the question of who gets to decide when someone's life ends, and the ever-present tension between professional duty and personal feelings; these dilemmas are often faced by healthcare professionals but are rarely portrayed with such complexity and wit in cinematic spheres.

The film seamlessly combines elements of drama, comedy, and satire, keeping viewers engrossed. The performances of the star-studded cast elevate the narrative, presenting well-rounded characters that resonate with the audience. James Spader's portrayal of the young doctor in distress, Helen Mirren's compelling, strong ICU nurse, Kyra Sedgwick's passionate portrayal of conflicted sister and the remaining ensemble of actors contribute to this unique cinematic experience.

In conclusion, Critical Care is a distinctive medical satire that blends serious ethics with humor, offering a thought-provoking journey through the intricacies of life, death, and everything that lies in between. Viewers are left not only reflecting on the dilemmas presented but also appreciating the light-hearted moments and wit that break up the profound themes throughout the film.

Critical Care is a Comedy, Drama movie released in 1997. It has a runtime of 107 minutes. Critics and viewers have rated it moderate reviews, with an IMDb score of 5.9..

How to Watch Critical Care

Where can I stream Critical Care movie online? Critical Care is available to watch and stream, buy on demand, download at The Roku Channel Free, Tubi TV, Apple TV, Amazon, Google Play, YouTube VOD, Vudu. Some platforms allow you to rent Critical Care for a limited time or purchase the movie for downloading.

5.9/10
Director
Sidney Lumet
Stars
James Spader, Kyra Sedgwick, Helen Mirren, Anne Bancroft, Albert Brooks
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