A very well made film that is unfortunately let down by a boring plot and a weak finale.
A Cure for Wellness marks a return to horror movies for director of The Ring Gore Verbinski after successes with Rango and the Pirates of the Caribbean series. This break from the genre has not softened him however as he delivers what is sure to be one of 2017’s most disturbing films.
The film follows the story of Lockhart (Dane Dehaan), a New York company executive who has been tasked with retrieving CEO Pembroke (Harry Groener) from a mysterious “wellness centre” at the base of the Swiss alps. After visiting the centre and being unsuccessful in his search for Pembroke, Lockhart is involved in a car accident that leaves him stranded at the unsettling facility with a broken leg. From here Lockhart finds himself at the mercy of the suspicious Dr Heinreich Volmer (Jason Issacs) and begins to discover the dark secrets of the centre with help from young “special case” patient, Hannah (Mia Goth).
The performances in the movie are mixed in quality; in the face of a strong supporting cast, Dehaan’s performance is rather bland. However, when considering his character’s lack of any real development throughout the film, there was not much the actor could do with the role. The stand out performer is undoubtedly Goth, who successfully delivers in some very challenging scenes – particularly towards the film’s end.
The film is beautifully shot with the settings of both the Swiss alps and the “wellness centre” being used to full effect. Credit must be given to cinematographer Bojan Bazelli as not only are certain shots truly breathtaking but the bleak look overall really helps to set the dark tone of the film early on. Benjamin Wallfisch’s haunting soundtrack is also excellent and successfully builds tension as we follow Lockhart’s time at the centre.
Verbinski does a great job at making the viewer feel suspicious of the centre and its employees early on in the film despite there being nothing glaringly wrong. The centre itself has the look and feel of a Victorian insane asylum and what makes the film so disturbing is that within this setting, everything is unusually calm and pleasant for most of the time, despite there clearly being something wrong under the surface.
Although this is a very well made film, it unfortunately fails to deliver in terms of plot. Despite the mystery surrounding the “wellness centre” being intriguing throughout, the way in which Lockhart finds out new information occurs through boring exposition given every twenty minutes or so. It is only towards the end that we see Lockhart begin to discover things for himself without being told directly, which is a much more engaging viewing experience.
The film is also disappointing in its ending. The final twenty minutes go completely off the rails, to the point that the question of what will happen is no longer interesting. There is also a huge amount of unnecessary content. With a run time of around two and a half hours, plot points such as Lockhart’s family background could have easily been cut as they offer little to the overall story and only confuse the narrative.
A Cure for Wellness is a disturbing yet enjoyable movie that is worth the watch as it has been made with some exceptional filmmaking skill by Verbinski and crew. However, lack of quality in its story as well as unnecessary grossness at times lets down the film overall.
A Cure for Wellness (2017), directed by Gore Verbinski, is distributed in the UK by 20th Century Fox, Certificate 18