Plain, Simple Tom reviews . . . “A Cure for Wellness” (2016)

Gore Verbinski’s latest film is about swaggering young finance executive Lockhart (Dane Dehaan) who is sent by his superiors to an elite health clinic in the Swiss Alps to retrieve his CEO for an important merger. While there, he finds the CEO reluctant to leave and soon gets into a car accident that leaves his leg in a cast and requires him to stay at the clinic for a time. He soon starts noticing strange things and comes to suspect that the clinic staff are not curing their patients at all and decides to get to the bottom of it. But is it all real or is he simply having paranoid delusions?

In the main role, Dane Dehaan is great, starting off as a bit of a nasty piece of work but soon becoming a protagonist who we can easily support and care about. His character is pretty clever and though he is a bit of a blank slate, Dehaan is suitably charismatic and gives a powerful performance. Nymphomaniac‘s Mia Goth provides some able support, as does the great Celia Imrie, and the wonderful Jason Isaacs does very well in his role as Volmer, able to alternate between being charming and helpful to being creepy and suspicious, constantly getting us to doubt just whether he’s good or bad.

The film succeeds in creating a tense, uncertain atmosphere, effectively keeping the audience unsure of whether sinister goings on are actually happening or whether there is actually a perfectly rational explanation for everything. Comparisons to Shutter Island are pretty unavoidable as it sees the protagonist enerting a sinister “facility” and uncovers hidden mysteries which may or may not be real – Dane Dehaan even looks a bit like Leonardo DiCaprio in the right light and wears a similar grey trench coat! Despite its generous runtime, there is plenty going on to hold our interest and it is very rarely boring.

The film is also remarkably bold and gruesome in places, with eels aplenty, forcibly inserted tubes, a wince inducing misuse of dentistry equipment and an eye widening, no holes barred part at the finale between Goth and Isaacs.

A Cure for Wellness is also very well designed; the exterior shots of Switzerland are often gorgeous to look at, while at other times being admirably foreboding and ominous. It also has a very effective score from Benjamin Wallfisch that perfectly compliments the unsettling images and its central lullaby theme, introduced at the very beginning, is very effective and unsettling. Also, it was satisfying to see that the costume design was done by Jenny Beavan of Mad Max: Fury Road fame.

The film has its problems though (what film doesn’t?) as ultimately, the story isn’t that exciting, many plot points don’t make much sense and certain revelations are predictable; Verbinski tries to keep us in suspense for as long as possible but in all likelihood, the audience has already sussed out the twist long before the reveal – I kinda did. There’s an attempt at a backstory that serves to give some insight into Dehaan’s character and to possibly provide a twist but that part of the story was left unresolved and all proved to be disappointingly irrelevant to the story.

Certain revelations are a bit difficult to comprehend and the story disintegrates in the slightly ridiculous finale. The film also has a few pacing issues (a phrase which I’m hearing so much more of nowadays) as it is too long and for the most part, moves at a leisurely pace; the film is a bit uncertain of just when to end and would have benefited from being shortened a little bit.

Hello to Jason Isaacs.


Great performances, exquisite design and a tense atmosphere but overlong and with some issues with the narrative.

★ ★ ★

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