By Mark Saldana
Rating: 2 (Out of 4 Stars)
A problem with some slow-burning thrillers is the tendency to fizzle out when they are supposed to erupt with excitement and surprises. Such is the key issue with Gore Verbinski’s A Cure for Wellness, a creepy and strange movie that spends too much of its run time trying to build tension, but fails to deliver when it comes to a climax. Verbinski and crew do an exceptional job creating the perfect mood with a dark, dank, and bleak visual style, but the writing squanders the gorgeously macabre aesthetics.
Desperate for their CEO’s return, the leaders of a major company send a young, enterprising new employee named Lockhart (Dane DeHaan) to retrieve him from a health spa in the Swiss Alps. Having resigned from the company due to illness, the CEO Pembroke (Harry Groener) wishes to remain at the spa until he has recovers and refuses to return with him. As Lockhart is about to return home empty-handed, a freak accident delays his departure, making him a patient of the “wellness center.” Things are not at all what they appear to be, however. Instead of getting better, Lockhart feels his health deteriorating along with his sanity.
Written by Justin Haythe and Gore Verbinski, A Cure for Wellness seems to be an exercise in entertainment futility. By the time the film gets to its, so-called, “big reveal,” all of the excessive build-up that leads to it wears out its welcome, and the revelation itself is not all that surprising or shocking. In addition, what is supposed to be a big, dramatic climax comes across so excessively and laughably theatrical that any gravity the filmmakers hoped to convey is completely lost and cannot be taken seriously at all. The end result is a very tedious and tiresome bore of a movie, which is a damn shame, considering the striking visuals the film has. The cinematography by Bojan Bazelli and the work of the production crew give the film the perfect look of creepiness and dread. The score by Benjamin Wallfisch complements the visuals beautifully.
Even the cast members deliver solid work, despite the weaknesses of the screenplay. In addition to a stellar performance by Dane DeHaan, the movie also features mostly great acting by Jason Isaacs, Mia Goth, Celia Imrie and Harry Groener. My only complaint about Issacs’ and Goth’s acting has to do with the silly, somewhat over-the-top climax of the movie where both actors resort to overacting. I am guessing that the poor direction is to blame for that scene, in addition to the lousy writing.
And lousy writing is the main culprit that makes this thriller not so thrilling at all. The potential for an eerie psychological thriller was there, but a long-winded build-up grows dreadfully tiresome and the climax has the impact of a complete dud. All the lovely mood setting and gorgeous visuals are window dressing for an otherwise, disappointing view. This slow-burner simmers way too long for its own good.