The profanity, which is an extension of adolescent humor, is central to the idea of the movie. The silliness of adolescents — compulsively making jokes, seeing the ridiculous in everything — is what makes sanity possible here. The doctor who rejects adolescent behavior flips out. Adolescent pride in skills and games — in mixing a Martini or in devising a fishing lure or in golfing—keeps the men from becoming maniacs. Sutherland and Gould, and Tom Skerritt, as a third surgeon, and a lot of freakishly talented new-to-movies actors are relaxed and loose in their roles. Their style of acting underscores the point of the picture, which is that people who aren’t hung up by pretensions, people who are loose and profane and have some empathy – people who can joke about anything — can function, and maybe even do something useful, in what may appear to be insane circumstances.

Pauline Kael, The New Yorker January 14 1970