Film Review: A CURE FOR WELLNESS (USA 2017) ***1/2

a_cure_for_wellness.jpgGore Verbinski
Writers: Justin Haythe (screenplay), Justin Haythe (story by) |
Stars: Jason Isaacs, Dane DeHaan, Mia Goth

Review by Gilbert Seah

The director of THE PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN films turns serious with a new psychological thriller written by Justin Haythe (THE LONE RANGER and REVOLUTIONARY ROAD). Like the PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN films, A CURE ROR WELLNESS is over-long and can be shortened, but it is still a surprisingly entertaining suspensor, keeping the audience on the edge of their seats from start to finish.

An ambitious young executive, Lockhart (Dane DeHaan, his most memorable role being in CHRONICLE) is sent to retrieve his company’s CEO from an idyllic but mysterious “wellness center” at a remote location in the Swiss Alps. He soon suspects that the spa’s miraculous treatments are not what they seem. When he begins to unravel its terrifying secrets (Do NOT drink the water!), his sanity is tested, as he finds himself diagnosed with the same curious illness that keeps all the guests there longing for the cure. He is being watched and confined by Volmer (Jason Isaacs) who has darker designs for Lockhart. Lockhart, in the meantime falls in love with Hannah (Mia Goth) another patient at the facility. The question is whether Lockhart can escape or end up committed forever. The film might have been inspired by the classic THE CABINET OF DR. CALIGARI.

The film is realistically shot in English and part German as the mountainous parts of Switzerland is mainly German. The film was filmed largely at The Babelsberg Film Studio, located in Potsdam-Babelsberg outside Berlin, Germany, the oldest large-scale film studio in the world. (METROPOLIS was shot there.) The film is a handsome production, with special effects and stunning shots by cinematography Bojan Bazelli.

Relative newcomer Dane DeHaan makes a believable naive young executive falling prey to a dark evil that challenges his sanity. Equally good, if not better, is young Mia Goth who plays a waif who is as innocently creepy as Sissy Spacek in CARRIE. There is a nice cameo by English actress Celia Imrie (THE BEST EXOTIC MARIGOLD HOTEL) who plays a small but important role as a Baroness.

The film is a tad too long at 146 minutes with many repetitive scenes. How many times has Lockhart been warned by Volmer for roaming around and getting lost in the facility? How many times must Lockhart see the toilet handle shaking. And how many times must Lockhart wake up from a nightmare in cold sweat for the purpose of director verbinski scaring the audience with a false alarm?

To be fair to Verbinski, he has staged some very creepy scenes, the one in the village pub being one of he creepiest I have seen in a while , In this scene, Hannah puts on a song from the jukebox, that turns out to be the creepiest, haunting music I have ever heard. She dances in her skimpy dress with the heads of onlookers turning around to watch this strange creature dancing, only to have her felt up by the local village thug who yields a curved blade when later rescued by Lockhart. Lockhart is at the telephone making a long distance call at the point Hannah is being molested, the timing adding to the suspense, in the film’s best scene.

The film has not had that much publicity so far, but it comes with my high recommendation as a taut suspenseful thriller with super eerie European atmosphere. Creepy and scary, the film will keep one absorbed in suspense from start to end. The film also delivers, subtly, the message that wellness comes from oneself, through self-discovery.




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