Film Review: ‘A Cure for Wellness’

Written by on February 21, 2017

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Director: Gore Verbinski
Studio: Regency Enterprises
Cast: Dane DeHaan, Jason Isaacs, Mia Goth
Release Date: February 17, 2017

I’m really not entirely sure what I just watched, but I think I liked it.

In a cinematic landscape of reboots, franchises, reimaginings, and adaptations, director Gore Verbinski gives us something unlike anything we’ve seen before with his psychological thriller, A Cure for Wellness. I can truly sit here and say that I’ve never seen anything like this movie before, but I’m not quite sure if that’s a good thing.

The plot of this movie begins as a straightforward fetch quest but unwinds into something much more sinister and intricate. Lockhart (Dane DeHaan), a young, ambitious business executive, must travel to a wellness center at the peak of a remote mountain in Switzerland to return his company’s CEO (Harry Groener) to New York City in order to complete paperwork necessary for a large deal.

However, after an accident leaves him with a broken leg, Lockhart is trapped at the wellness center until he can be nursed back to health by Dr. Heinreich Volmer, the director of the center (Jason Isaacs). As the plot unwinds, it appears that everything may not be as it seems for Lockhart, as he enlists the help of a young patient at the facility, Hannah (Mia Goth), to help him in his search for answers in order to figure out just what in the world was going on at this facility.

Dane DeHaan puts in a fantastic performance as Lockhart, beginning the film as a smarmy bigwig business executive, but turning into a vulnerable victim by the end of the film. He is beyond believable in both situations, and his terrified facial expressions and hurried, crutched limp can make for some intense scenes towards the middle of the film.

Another notable performance was Jason Isaacs’s as Dr. Heinreich Volmer. As events went from mundane towards something more creepy, Isaacs shifted his persona. His character is the type that will leave you with the heebie jeebies, and that is exactly what needed to happen.

The direction of the film was inspired. Verbinski’s framing is top-notch, and leaves the audience with a few shots that I can see becoming iconic in the near future.

The sound design in the film is phenomenal, most notably during what quickly became one of my favorite sequences in recent memory. Lockhart was limping around a floor of the facility on his crutches during his search for clarity. What made this sequence so special, however, was the sound design. The only noises you could hear was Lockhart’s breathing and the sound of his crutches creaking against the floorboards. This gave the whole theater an eery tension that only broke when the next sequence began. It was edge-of-your-seat stuff, and it was fantastic.

However, this brings me to one of my main gripes with the film. It wasn’t very scary. And it doesn’t have to be. Not every psychological thriller has to make you wet yourself, but the film seemed to find itself more scary than it actually was. At a few points, a loud clang would play as a sound effect, which usually denotes a frightening jumpscare, but that wasn’t usually what followed. A Cure for Wellness seems to have some trouble deciding what genre it wants to fall into. Is it a horror movie? Is it a psychological thriller? Does it want to be funny at points?

Also, it should be pointed out that there were some disgusting scenes in this movie. It takes quite a bit to make me cringe in a movie theater, but this film did it twice. One of these moments was during the conclusion of the film. I want to keep this review spoiler-free, but the ending might not be for the faint of heart. If you are up to the task, though, it will have your heart in your throat and you’ll be on the edge of your seat excited for the conclusion.

The only problem with that is that the conclusion never seems to come. My number one complaint about this film is that it long overstays its welcome. Its runtime comes out to a portly 146 minutes. The only time I want to sit in a movie theater for 2 hours and 26 minutes is if it has Lord of the Rings in the title. The fact that the director of this film thinks that he can keep an audience’s attention for 146 minutes is outlandish during a time when humans can’t keep a conversation going at dinner without checking their phones every 30 seconds.

All in all, A Cure for Wellness is a good, if not flawed, film. The courage of director Gore Verbinski should be noted, in that there is absolutely no way this film is going to perform well at the box office. It is just too strange. But those who will enjoyed it will love it unabashedly and those who hated it will continue to do so with passion. It might not be the killer that it was hoped to be, but Verbinski and Regency Enterprises have created what could be a cult classic to be analyzed by niche groups for decades to come.

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