From early looks, A Cure for Wellness appeared to be a mysterious and challenging film where you’re puzzled until the final frame. It holds your interest until the very end, but if it pays off or not is another question. Taking a closer look at director Gore Verbinski’s filmography, I was taken aback that he took on this type of material. Having started the Pirates of the Caribbean films, this just shows how far his range is in regards to interest and skill. The actor cast for the lead was a plus with Dane Dehaan, and I knew his acting chops had far exceeded what he was able to do before. Though while the title of the film is fitting, it may be the script that needs the cure.
What’s different here is the tone that’s set, not catering to one side or the other in respects to a protagonist or antagonist. As soon as it starts you know you’re there to solve a riddle and are excited to be a part of it. Even with the atmosphere being dark and looming, the anticipation to get the ball rolling is all around you. Lockheart (Dane DeHaan) is a young man on the rise, enriched with a level of power. It’s apparent that he wants to shine bright for his superiors, but won’t be dictated in anyway. I liked his character for this. He knew when to speak up, never taking things too far. The casting couldn’t have been any better. His look embodies his character so well, and it’s not that you like the man, but you do respect him.
As far as the plot, Lockheart pushes it forward as he should, asking the exact questions you would if you were in his shoes. He’s like your avatar on screen, with his well-being feeling like it’s your own. What’s also fascinating are the undertones of self-reflection throughout the film. It addresses what some consider paradise, and what others feel is hell. The film advises you to humble yourself, to empty your cup, and take in new experiences that you’ve never encountered before. This is something Lockheart has to learn, which shows his growth as a man during certain scenes. He thinks he knows it all, and you see this world flip his views upside down.
Not only does this world flip Lockheart upside down, but also you, the audience member, in more ways than you’d want. Gore Verbenski takes a bold approach at selling you visuals. It’s trickery, not knowing if the images or real or an illusion. It’s a clever game he plays, but it ran its course too long. There’s no gore within the film, but there’s still moments that will make you turn rigorously in your seat if you have a weak stomach. For some you’ll be covering your face often, not wanting the memory of certain images. All would be fine, if there was a reason to care. There’s not. At times, you just want it all to be over and to have the secret answer to the film revealed. The question is what’s really going on? Though you may not be happy with the results.
You ultimately want to know who’s crazy and who isn’t. This is never fully answered, which feels like a kick in the nuts when the credits hit. An ambiguous ending is appreciated in certain circumstances, but here it isn’t. There’s a reveal towards the end, but it’s not what you want. Revealing that one character is crazy when you already know they’re crazy isn’t important. What is important is the information that was left on the cutting room floor. For nearly two and a half hours you’re pulled along an unfulfilling course that leaves you asking more questions when it’s all over. While the performances stood out, that doesn’t mean it’s worth your time; and with Verbinski reaching for the stars trying to be different he forgot to include a rational ending.