Review by J.T. Johnson
DIRECTOR: Gore Verbinski
CINEMATOGRAPHY: Bojan Bazelli
WRITER: Justin Haythe
MUSIC: Benjamin Wallfisch
“A Cure for Wellness” is the latest directorial effort from Gore Verbinski, a film that he also developed with screenwriter Justin Haythe. The movie centers around Lockhart (Dane DeHaan), a man sent to retrieve his boss from a wellness center at a remote location. On the way back to his hotel in a nearby town, Lockhart gets into a car crash that sees him back at the hospital under the care of the mysterious Dr. Volmer (Jason Isaacs).
Soon, Lockhart learns that there are some dark secrets to this mysterious sanitarium. These secrets also seem to involve Hannah (Mia Goth), a peculiar girl and the youngest patient at the sanitarium. The experiments at the facility seemed to be connected to a dark past and the film spends way too much time trying to make those connections.
First off, however, let’s go ahead and get what’s good about the movie out of the way. Visually speaking, the movie looks fantastic. Verbinski is known as a director who knows how to create interesting and sometimes disturbing visuals. Both he and his cinematographer Bojan Bazelli should be proud of their work in this film.
Also, the performances in the movie are top-notch. DeHaan is great as the appropriately disturbed and often confused Lockhart. At first, he’s not really a character that we care about, but by the end of the movie, he turns into a more sympathetic guy. That’s a difficult task and DeHaan at least pulls that off.
Then there is Isaacs as Dr. Volmer, the film’s main antagonist. For the most part, he a calming and reassuring doctor and plays the part perfectly. You really think that he might not be such a bad guy at first. Of course, this is Lucius Malfoy we’re talking about here, so when he has to get nasty, Isaacs is more than capable of pulling that off as well.
Unfortunately, the visuals and the performances are about the only things that work in this movie. The problem is completely with the story. For almost two and a half hours, this film tries to make you believe that it’s more intelligent than it actually is, containing a twist that you can see coming from a mile away and a tone that suggests there will be more to offer than what we are ultimately given.
About an hour into the movie, I was wondering when they were just going to get to the point about the mystery they were trying to set up. When they finally did get to the point, I was horribly disappointed by the answers. Despite the visuals and the melancholy tone, I was bored to tears by this movie.
Haythe apparently didn’t know all the answers to his own story either, because there are several elements that I’m still confused about. For example, throughout the movie, we see eels being used in some of Volmer’s experiments. However, the film never bothers to answer why eels or how exactly Volmer’s experiments work.
There is also some disturbing imagery that seems to be there solely for the purpose of just having a disturbing image. There is a scene where Lockhart is locked into a chair and a tooth is drilled out of his head. Afterwards, no one bothers to explain why the dentist drilled a tooth out of his head or what purpose it was supposed to serve other than to make me feel uncomfortable as an audience member.
Due to how strong the performances and the visuals that are in this movie, I really wanted the story to step it up by the end and save the day. Unfortunately, all you’re getting is a generic thriller that’s trying to act way too smart for its own good.