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Paper Mask review in Hello No. 119, September 15, 1990

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PostPosted: Sat Aug 02, 2008 1:39 pm    Post subject: Paper Mask review in Hello No. 119, September 15, 1990 Reply with quote

Paper Mask review in Hello No. 119, September 15, 1990, page 23

Edited by Minty Clinch

With the National Health Service going through a controversial phase, it might seem irresponsible to make a film like Paper Mask. Not only does it suggest that the medical profession is so corrupted that it could be penetrated by an upwardly mobile hospital orderly, but it goes on to imply that most junior doctors are so inept that lack of medical training would go unnoticed in the casualty department of a major hospital. Ah well, you may not dare to go to the doctor afterwards, but you should enjoy this well-crafted British thriller.

The man who puts on the paper mask is one Matthew Harris (Paul McGann), employed as a porter by a London teaching hospital. Unlike his mate, Alec (Jimmy Yuill), he brings a lively mind to a dull job, learning as much as possible by listening in whenever doctors take their students on their rounds. When his friend, Simon Hennessey, is killed in a car crash, Matthew seizes his papers, including his medical qualifications, and his opportunities by attending a job interview in the dead man’s shoes. As the other applicants are a woman doctor and an Indian, the lone, well-spoken male WASP is appointed without demur.

From this outset, this film requires a determined suspension of disbelief. Matthew and Simon are not natural allies, not anyway to the extent that Matthew would get first go at Simon’s papers after his death. Nor does the job interview, amusing and cleverly devised though it is, carry any credibility. And worse is to come as our hero flicks through a medical text book, dons a white coat and stethoscope and heads for his first afternoon in casualty in a Bristol hospital. He is rescued from assorted dilemmas by Christine (Amanda Donahoe), a competent, alluring nurse who has seen rookies before. By her book, Matthew, or Simon, as he is now known, is nothing out of the ordinary order of incompetence and soon they are in cahoots—and, of course, in love and in bed.

As the plot unfolds, the filmmakers move into a graver mode with a subplot that results in a negligence enquiry and a nasty case of murder. Matthew engages our sympathies initially, but once he is accepted by his fellow junior doctors—a clichéd bunch of gung ho drunks who rightly fear malpractice enquiries on their own accounts—he forfeits our concern, along with the last vestiges of his own morality.

Paul McGann has never been better, initially beguilingly innocent in the midst of wrongdoing but gradually becoming colder as he discovers just how far he is prepared to go to protect his charade.
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