Finding the ‘Cure’ through scares

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Finding the ‘Cure’ through scares

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Have you started planning your vacation destination for spring break this year? After seeing “A Cure for Wellness,” you’ll want to mark that Swiss Alps wellness center off the list.

Directed by Gore Verbinski, “A Cure for Wellness” stars Dane DeHaan as Lockhart, a young and successful businessman for a large New York company. After the company has an important merger deal set up, the top executives decide to send DeHaan to retrieve the company’s missing CEO, Roland Pembroke, from a wellness center in the Swiss Alps.  Although initially against the idea, Lockhart is blackmailed by the company, forcing his hand and setting him on his trip to bring Pembroke back to New York to complete the deal.

“A Cure for Wellness” is a visually spectacular film, offering imaginative sequences paired with cutting-edge techniques and stunning locations. After previous successes like “The Ring” and “The Pirates of the Caribbean,” director Gore Verbinski has shown potential for creating atmosphere and depth in his films. “A Cure for Wellness” shares much of the stylistic elements of Verbinski’s previous works, but attempts to reach for far grander societal meaning, resulting in some success. The tone and genre of this film seem very fresh, with possible influence from other thrillers, like Scorcese’s “Shutter Island.”

Upon his arrival at the wellness spa, Lockhart begins to notice peculiarities among the residents’ behaviors. This film follows his attempts to unravel the sinister mysteries surrounding this castle and its purpose. The wellness center is run by Dr. Heinrich Volmer (portrayed by Jason Isaacs), whose motivations and scientific experiments seem to be crazy and dangerous. We learn of Volmer’s emphasis on water and hydrotherapy, which he believes to be the cure to the ailments that the many wealthy patients seek (including Mr. Pembroke).  Isaacs has a great unnerving performance that kept me invested in the story, which can drag on at times through its character explorations.

I really enjoyed the bleak atmosphere that Verbinski created in this film and, for the most part, found it to be an enjoyable thriller that kept me on the edge of my seat throughout the many surprises it unravels. DeHaan does a great job conveying Lockhart’s seemingly endless desire for success, which leaves him and all of the other wealthy characters in this film feeling empty and alone. Mia Goth gave a great performance as Hannah, a special resident at the wellness center, whose key history and purpose are revealed much later. After the shocking finale to this film, I found myself reflecting on its meaning and bizarre plot choices and appreciating it for what it was—an original attempt at highlighting the disconnect wealthy people may have with fulfillment and happiness if success alone is their primary motive.

Although I liked some of the philosophical aspects of “A Cure for Wellness,” the film did have issues, mainly attributed to the length and pacing. This film clocks in at 146 minutes, but I felt the story could have been trimmed and enhanced at a runtime of two hours. Along with the excessive length, the pacing of this film can be choppy—some heightened scenes of emotion and energy, followed by scenes of exploration and little cohesion to the overall storyline. Many audience members may get understandably bored with this film, as its elaborate plot is slow to reveal itself, and really focuses on character depth (specifically Lockhart, Dr. Volmer and Hannah). While the reviews are pretty harsh so far, I thought “A Cure for Wellness” was a unique and entertaining thriller, which has the possibility of gaining a cult following down the road as its themes are further analyzed and understood.