Travelers to foreign lands are often cautioned, “Don’t drink the water.” The warning couldn’t be more accurate in the newest psychological thriller, “A Cure for Wellness.”
The film centers around a young Wall Street workaholic, Lockhart (Dane Dehaan) who is sent to retrieve his company’s CEO from a mysterious wellness resort in the Swiss Alps.
As it turns out, the eerie resort is not what it seems. It’s a sanitarium filled with patients who are all former CEOs or executives, desperate to find a cure for their “illness.” Shrouded in matching white robes, they praise the healing qualities of the spa’s water. When they aren’t drinking endless cups of water or receiving archaic treatments like hydrotherapy, they spend their time playing Bocce or doing Tai Chi on the lawn in a dream-like state.
After a car crash and subsequent broken leg, Lockhart soon finds himself back in the sanitarium. The resort’s director, Dr. Volmer (Jason Isaacs), convinces him to stay and try some of his secretive treatments, including the esteemed water.
What follows is a series of nightmarish events that test Lockhart’s sanity. Trapped in the confines of the resort, he is quickly diagnosed with the same illness as the other patients – including the only other patient under the age of 65, a catatonic, wide-eyed girl named Hannah (Mia Goth). As the secrets of the mysterious resort slowly unravel, Lockhart and Hannah’s fates are in jeopardy until the final moments of the film.
Directed by Gore Verbinski, whose previous works include the first three “Pirates of the Caribbean” movies and “The Ring,” “A Cure for Wellness” does a fine job playing on the audience’s biggest fears. There’s a claustrophobic isolation tank filled with slithering eels, a horrifying dental exam and plenty of encounters with gore and nudity.
The film’s visual aesthetic is stunning, albeit creepy. The cinematographer, Bojan Bazelli, played with unexpected angles, reflections and the hauntingly beautiful architecture of the German castle where the movie was filmed.
In his first lead role, Dehaan’s performance as Lockhart is to be commended. Much like Leonardo DiCaprio in “Shutter Island,” Dehaan effectively tricks the audience into questioning whether his character has truly gone insane.
Unfortunately, these traditional horror tropes couldn’t save “A Cure For Wellness” from an incoherent and disappointing plot. Ultimately, the film serves to warn viewers about the “illness” caused by our society’s obsession with work and success.