People are willing to pay good money for a quick fix to their lives these days. Splurging massive amounts of income on gym memberships, fad diets and the latest medical breakthroughs, an easy solution to our health and wellness problems can be bought for the right price. Gore Verbinski's new film 'A Cure For Wellness' takes that concept to a whole new level, with the idea that sometimes the price is too high to pay - while taking us on a very twisted journey into a surreal and unimaginably murky world.
Lockhart (Dane DeHaan) is sent to retrieve his CEO from a health retreat in the Swiss Alps. Upon arriving, it appears not everything is as it seems - the patient in question is nowhere to be found, and the other guests seem unnaturally docile and complacent. After being taken in by the facility after a catastrophic car crash, Lockhart begins to suspect something is very wrong with the reteat and begins to investigate. There might just be something in the water...
This seems like a harmless enough synopsis of the film, but it doesn't even begin to describe the the plot. What begins as a drama quickly develops into a mystery and plummets into something much darker altogether, dipping its toe into fantasy, sci-fi, horror, romance and thriller. It's quite hard to compare this to any other film out there, simply for the fact that it artfully plays with genres, blurring lines and weaving together conventions in the most unexpectedly successful ways.
The sinister undercurrent which slowly bubbles along throughout the film should not be underestimated. At its core, 'A Cure For Wellness' is pitch black, whilst superficially all that can be seen is a calm surface. It's only when the cracks start to appear - and Lockhart starts to poke and prod at them - that the horror beneath begins to bleed through. The similarity to 'Pan's Labyrinth' keeps coming to my mind - not everything is as it appears on the surface, and what lives beneath is more perverse than we wish to imagine. To reveal even the smallest details is to ruin the surprise of what's to come, but believe me when I say the tale is truly twisted.
This is helped immensely by the direction of Gore Verbinski's ('The Lone Ranger', 'Rango') and cinematography of Bojan Bazelli ('Pete's Dragon', 'The Lone Ranger'). The film is drenched in a greeny-aqua hue, further accentuating the water theme. In many instances, the shots are much looser than you would expect, but never at the loss of the emotional impact. Instead, it allows you to take in more of the superb production design, from the antiquated hospital to the primitive medical instruments to some gruesome and arduous procedures. This is unquestionably Verbinski's best work in a long while, if not also the most abstract.
The sinister undercurrent which slowly bubbles along throughout the film should not be underestimated.
Having yet to be won over by Dane DeHaan, I was surprised at how well he fit into the role of Lockhart. As our conduit into this world - we only see what he sees - we're swept up in his quest for answers, so often to his own detriment. DeHaan has been challenged by this character, but the increasing madness he endures physically and emotionally is real and harrowing. Mia Goth ('Everest', 'Nymphomaniac') as Hannah, a young girl staying at the health retreat whom Lockhart befriends, is utterly perfect for this role. Here she is naïvely aloof yet observing, transfixing every time she's on screen.
This isn't perfect by any regard - the story can be somewhat predictable at times - but this is Gore Verbinski's finest work to date. The cold, stunning beauty that emanates from every shot and the innocent environment that is slowly eroded to reveal something much more disturbing are handled masterfully. With so many elements at play in 'A Cure For Wellness', it's a miracle that they have all come together so successfully. This film is sure to be a cure for your boredom.