"Code Black": A Hospital's Rhythms of Life and Death

Although more intimately made than your typical issue-debating documentary, debut filmmaker Ryan McGarry's Code Black definitely lives up to its succinctly alarmist title. McGarry, a young ER doctor, chronicles his own training at Los Angeles County General Hospital, the storied birthplace of emergency medicine — and in particular one trauma bay reported to have seen more deaths, and more lives saved, per square foot than any other American place. Obviously it takes a certain kind of person to do a residency in such a place, let alone to make a movie about it. McGarry has his reasons, as do his colleagues, whose ambition and idealism we see challenged by the bureaucracy of their recent transition to a new building and with it new regulations. And his forgivably novice moviemaking technique — too much emotion-nudging music, some extraneous pieties of narration, an untidy structure — doesn't diminish the real value of his project, which is its transcendence of (often shouted) talking points.

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