Last weekend, “A Cure for Wellness” hit movie theaters across the United States. Marketed as a highly anticipated psychological horror film from the director of four of the “Pirates of the Caribbean” movies, Gore Verbinski, viewers left the theater perplexed and slightly disappointed with the movie’s awry ending and weird plot. While the film’s star, “The Amazing Spiderman’s” Dane DeHaan delivered a solid performance, the movie’s main strengths were the gorgeous cinematography and sound, leaving the film’s odd and underwhelming storyline to peter out into an anticlimactic ending.
Starting out very strong, “A Cure for Wellness” opens with a beautiful establishing shot of New York City in a sharp grey filter which added a cool eeriness and set up the perfect ambiance for a psychological thriller. The story proceeds to follow an ambitious, power–hungry young executive named Lockhart (portrayed by DeHaan) desperate to impress his superiors who are running a high-end finance firm in the absence of the company’s CEO, Roland Pembroke.
Currently preparing for a major merger with another successful finance firm, Lockhart’s superiors entrust him with the task of retrieving their absentee CEO from his hiatus in a “wellness center” and spa located in the Swiss Alps in order to straighten out serious legal matters before the merger is carried out.
Lockhart sets out to retrieve Pembroke, all the while hearing strange rumors from the locals regarding the gruesome deaths of the spa’s original owners at the hands of the villagers. Undeterred by these warnings, Lockhart forces his way into the spa, quickly learning that not all is what it seems in the idyllic center and that a dark secret contaminates the facility’s “hydrotherapy.”
The introduction contains all the elements found in a typical urban–legend based thriller, complete with the disbelieving protagonist, disconcerting background music, isolated facility with a dark history and creepily aloof residents.
However stereotypical the setup, DeHaan delivers an impressively believable and charming performance as a flawed yet somewhat relatable character striving for acceptance in a high–maintenance, power–obsessed corporate world. Then we are introduced to the over-cordial doctor and facility CEO, Dr. Volmer, portrayed by Jason Isaacs and his teenaged ward, the incredibly unoriginal yet oddly enticing Hannah, portrayed by Mia Goth. From the austere yet captivatingly beautiful environment and perceived peacefulness, Dr. Volmer’s wellness facility appears to be the Garden of Eden, sporting soft white robes and an extremely content yet aged clientele who are seeking the spa’s famous “cure.”
Introduced as a “special case,” of the facility, Hannah is the doe–eyed, willowy pale McGuffin, whose mysterious backstory is disclosed in a ridiculously knotted tale that serves as the story’s driving force. Both looking, sounding and feeling like a discount “Alice in Wonderland” character, even Goth’s good acting couldn’t save this character from becoming the pinnacle of overdramatized plot driver. Isaacs does a good job playing the unsettlingly kind and protective antagonist, but although his character had real sinister potential, the plot fumbles and pigeon–holes his character into a predictable and deranged lunatic.
All in all, while “A Cure for Wellness,” had strong potential, the script, storyline and character arcs floundered. What really made the film was the incredible cinematography. Personal favorites included the movie’s awesome use of symmetry and table-two shots, especially a gorgeous shot featuring a moving train and the locomotive’s perfect reflection in an adjacent metallic surfaced wall.
Another beautiful shot takes the screen from the perspective mirrored in the black eye of a buck’s head hanging on the wall overlooking Dr. Volmer’s office. The shot is resemblant of a cool GoPro perspective and was a visually unique and stunning shot. “A Cure for Wellness’s” sound effects made up for the movie’s weak character archetypes.
From water pouring into a glass to the incessant jiggling of loose toilet handles, the movie’s sounds rang clear as bells and helped shape an unnerving yet enticing tone. The entire movie looked sharp and pristine and with crisp and clear sound quality and effects, “A Cure for Wellness,” made great use of its visual and sound effects, perhaps at the expense of delivering equally immersive or enticing plot line. The film is overly reliant on movie clichés. In conclusion, while the movie is shot using all the right angles, its insipid story left a shallow and forgettable impression.