A trip to the emergency room is always fraught with stomach-churning nausea (or worse)—not surprisingly, the same goes for a documentary shot in one. Code Black turns its cameras on Los Angeles County General Hospital’s cramped C-Booth, the high-intensity ward for the critically injured. Absorbingly, we’re treated to skilled surgical work under intense pressure; the film doesn’t skimp on blood or traumatic shrieks, but the doctors’ cool-headedness goes a long way toward offsetting your urge to flee the theater.
Resident turned filmmaker Ryan McGarry sometimes displays shrewd instincts for hardheaded vérité—there’s compelling stuff here, even if you shear away his occasional stabs at issues of bureaucratic overcrowding and corporate cost-cutting at the expense of intimacy. But elsewhere, there’s too much gloopy piano music underscoring the interviews; he could use this doc as a calling card for a gig on Grey’s Anatomy.
Follow Joshua Rothkopf on Twitter: @joshrothkopf