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Review: A Cure For Wellness
Redbrick Film's John James reviews 'A Cure For Wellness', the latest from self-proclaimed "visionary" director Gore Verbinski
If you could say one thing about self-proclaimed ‘visionary’ director Gore Verbinski, it would be that his filmography is varied, and if you insisted on saying more it’d most likely be spiteful. The man at the helm of celebrated works such as the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, The Lone Ranger and The Mexican, returns to our cinemas with A Cure for Wellness, a psychological, mystery horror film about eels, water and European doctors.
“The cinematography is gorgeous, yet slightly insidious
Dane DeHaan stars as Dean Lockhart, an emotionless "Dane DeHaan-type" executive who is task-minded and gets his secretary to buy his mum’s birthday present. He’s ambitious and that’s pretty much all we’re told about him. His CEO has gone AWOL and dispatches a letter from a sanatorium in Switzerland, where patients undergo purification from the illness inherent in their being, urging the company to never contact him again. Naturally, Dean and the other empty bankers don’t have time for this nonsense, so he’s swiftly sent to fetch him so the company can make more money!
These caricatures, blatant and unsubtle as they are, actually serve to establish a mysterious and foreboding tone that providing it’s bought into lifts the film above its relatively meagre set up. Once Dean arrives at the complex, the obligatory ghost story exposition having being delivered in the taxi ride there, the film has fun playing with the sort of tropes you’d expect in a psychological thriller. The cinematography is beautiful, yet slightly insidious, as magnificent wide-angled shots of the sanatoriums lonely perch amongst the mountains are mingled with the peculiar, take the oddly graceful scene of old woman swimming like a herd of manatees in their windowed pool.
“The absence of substance coupled with the film's bloated run time leaves the audience fatigued rather than interested
Meanwhile Dean undergoes the trials expected of a protagonist including seeing things that aren’t there, getting lost in a steam room and being perturbed by sterile European accents. All great fun, providing it’s built on, the problem is A Cure for Wellness never does. Dean hobbles from discovery to discovery, but there is no definable path, no key clue and so no real moment of catharsis. This absence of substance coupled with the films bloated run-time (coming in at a whopping two hours and twenty-six minutes), leaves the audience fatigued rather than interested; it leaves us staring blankly at DeHaan running around a hospital yelling at orderlies and listening to ominous German punk rock in a local barn-bar whilst struggling to care.
When the film does finally arrive at its denouement, it does so with an almost Inception-like tone shift, morphing from a promising, if dull, Shutter Island imitation into a hilarious pastiche of The Mummy franchise. The change is so sudden, the already-exhausted audience can only sit back and marvel at the ridiculousness of it all before DeHaan smiles weirdly at the camera and mercifully the credits role. It seems as though Verbinski was caught in two minds about what film he wanted to make as he spends three-quarters of its run-time building suspense and establishing a feasible premise that his own ending viciously betrays.
VERDICT: Admirable in its intent, but flawed in its execution, A Cure for Wellness promises much but ultimately loses its way, only succeeding in leaving 'a sickness inside us rising like the bile built up in the back of our throats.’