When most people hear the name Gore Verbinski, Disney produced films come to mind.Yes, Verbinski was the mind behind the first three Pirates Of The Caribbean movies, as well as the massively panned adaptation of the classic western adventure series, The Lone Ranger. It seems easy to forget that he was also behind the Japanese horror remake The Ring, the Brad Pitt and Julia Roberts film The Mexican and the criminally underrated The Weather Man. He also took on the ambitious project of Rango, a computer-animated film that was also physically acted by the brilliantly put together voice cast. With both highs and lows, including the scrapped adaptation of the popular video game Bioshock, one thing remains clear and that’s Verbinski’s incredibly interesting visual style and storytelling. With A Cure For Wellness, he returns to his darker roots with a mind twister of a film.
The story follows an ambitious young businessman, Lockhart (Dane DeHaan), whose company is about to do a very important and lucrative merger. The problem is that the company’s CEO left to go to a mysterious spa retreat in Switzerland and sends a letter back informing the partners that he has no intention of returning. Lockhart is sent to drag home the CEO to complete the merger but once he has arrived, the whole facility strikes him as a bit odd. Local legends, strange “guests” and an intriguing young girl transfixes him, but Lockhart is driven in his goal to leave the place himself. While trying to get information back to his company, Lockhart is involved in a major car crash that breaks his leg and makes him unable to leave the facility and the watchful eye of the doctor who runs it, the peculiar Doctor Volmer (Jason Isaacs).
If you have checked out the trailer for this film then you have seen how visually arresting this movie is, pushing some mind-bending imagery designed to draw you in almost hypnotically. This works so well, as the story feels like it’s meant to always keep you on uneven ground, always threatening to pull the carpet from under you. When I initially saw the preview, I equated it a lot to Martin Scorsese’s Shutter Island, as the aesthetics are very much the same and both feature production design that is absolutely delicious up there on the big screen. Verbinski and cinematographer Bojan Bazelli, who worked with the director on both The Lone Ranger and The Ring, craft a story that is very based in its visual mystery and do a stellar job, to a point.
For all the mystery and intrigue that A Cure For Wellness has to offer, it feels like it gets into its third act and starts to stall out before spinning its wheels entirely in a bit of a paint by numbers reveal that feels very obvious. Once the story stops trying to dizzy you with its disorienting style, the plot points start dropping in obvious allusions to the truth of the matter that will make you feel like its dangling a red herring in front of your face. Unfortunately, this isn’t masking another truth because, really, what you see is what you get and after all of the dazzling filmmaking, the resolution feels incredibly lacking given what we were being set up for. It’s a good film for the most part but it seems the writers took an early lunch before closing up shop. 3/5