“A Cure For Wellness’ is disappointingly top heavy
From “Pirates of The Caribbean” director Gore Verbinski, his newest film “A Cure to Wellness” hit theaters this past weekend. Dane DeHaan stars as a young man named Lockhart, a young financial executive tasked with retrieving his company’s CEO from a mysterious wellness center in Switzerland. Upon arrival, he realizes that there may be more going on at the center than what meets eye, leading him to question both his sanity and what’s at the heart of the facility. The final result here is a film that starts off quite strong, but begins to lose its footing the further it goes along.
One aspect of the film that never loses its edge here is the overall atmosphere it conveys. Bleak, and at times surreal, the tone is creepy throughout the entirety of the film, keeping us at the edge of our seat as the center is explored further. Scenes like Lockhart stuck in a sensory deprivation tank with eels, or him stuck in a steam room with seemingly no exit, create a sense of dread that only grows as the film goes on, making us question whether or not Lockhart is really experiencing these events.
It’s at around the midway point in the film where its structure and length begin to feel a bit disjointed. At just under two-and-a-half hours, it’s a long film, and most of the second act here doesn’t feel entirely important or relevant to what happened both before and after it. A good portion of the act could’ve been cut to in the interest of length, as well as an overall more focused film. This act also contains a good amount of the aforementioned creepy imagery, but not enough focus on the unraveling of the central mystery of the center. An even split of the two would’ve worked better here, complementing each other without prioritizing one or the other.
The third act is where the most problems begin to rise, most notably with the uncovering of what lies at heart of the center and its machinations. The revelation here is fairly complex, and it isn’t explained or articulated very well. You’re given just barely enough information to understand what’s going on, but it’s executed in a way that confuses rather than genuinely informs. Questions regarding elements of the revelation are raised, but aren’t answered by the end of the film. The end of the third act also begins to lean towards certain genre cliches that many horror/thriller fans have seen before, and they aren’t done any better or differently here.
Luckily, the three main performances here help to make up for a good amount of the film’s shortcomings. Dane DeHaan does his best here despite his character not being the smartest guy alive, injecting an arrogant energy into many of his scenes. Jason Isaacs portrays the head of the center, Dr. Volmer, and does a great job as a man who comes off as likable, but secretly seems as if there’s more to him than what meets the eye. Mia Goth also stars as a young woman named Hannah, a patient at the center whom Dr. Volmer seems to have a special interest in. Despite what they’re given, all three actors give fine performances here.
In the horror/thriller genre, many films tend to not stand out very well from the pack, mostly stemming from lack of originality. “A Cure for Wellness” both stands apart and stands with this idea, interweaving between the two. While the first half of the film is fresh and exciting, most of the second half feels unfocused in its execution. The film is definitely worth a viewing, just don’t go in with astronomical expectations.