It’s been rather fascinating to watch the evolving career of director Gore Verbinski. Though he started in the late 90s, he didn’t really get noticed until he helmed the American remake of the Japanese horror film “The Ring” (the rare instance where the remake was better than the original). However, it was right after that that he would give us the original “Pirates of the Caribbean” trilogy, which truly put him on the map. As if this weren’t enough, he would go on to win an Oscar for his very next film, “Rango,” an animated project that had him working with Johnny Depp once again. Unfortunately, his career took a rather big hit when his next project, the incredibly misguided “The Lone Ranger,” became one of the biggest bombs of the last several years. Luckily this hasn’t stopped him from soldiering on, bringing us to his most recent project, the horror-mystery “A Cure for Wellness.” Will this be the film to bring him back to his glory days, or is there yet another disaster in store?
The film follows a young executive by the name of Lockhart (Dane DeHaan), who is tasked with traveling to a secluded health resort in Switzerland and bringing back the company’s top man to complete an important merger. Having just missed visiting hours upon his arrival, he has no other choice but to leave and return later. However, shortly after leaving, his vehicle hits a deer, leading to a terrible crash and a broken leg for the young man. He awakens at the resort, where he immediately notices several odd things about the place, including some odd behavior from the man he was sent to collect. As he delves deeper into the mystery, he finds that there is something very troubling going on, but with a broken leg and the resort director constantly giving him the runaround, what can he possibly do about it?
“A Cure for Wellness” is one of those movies that seems like it had everything it needed to be successful. It has an intriguing premise, a creepy tone and production design, a talented actor in the lead, and a great director at the helm, so what is it that went so incredibly wrong here? For starters, the film runs about two and a half hours, and while it does contain an interesting premise, it’s not nearly enough to support such an elongated runtime. Because of this, we have a multitude of scenes that contribute little or nothing to the plot, in essence feeling rather superfluous and unnecessary as the film lumbers on, trying to fill up all of the extra time.
Then there’s the plot itself. For the first hour or so, we become somewhat drawn into the mystery of this resort as we learn about its dark past and the disturbing things that appear to be going on there now. However, most in the audience will be able to figure out the answer to the mystery before the film reaches the halfway mark, making it more than a little sad when it builds up to the grand reveal of the “twist” near the end of the film (a “twist” which is more than a little laughable). Of course, all of this is only seen if you’ve had the patience to sit through the film’s meandering and poorly-paced structure.
It’s a terrible shame because Dane DeHaan (“Kill Your Darlings,” “Chronicle”) is a fine actor who deserve better than to be stuck in a mess like this, and, as noted, director Gore Verbinski has given us several great projects that have been incredibly successful. I know I seem to say it a lot, but this is yet another project where it really comes down to the lackluster script. What was screenwriter Justin Haythe thinking when he decided to structure the film this way, including a multitude of scenes that do nothing to further the plot and merely get in the way? That’s not to say that streamlining the film into a shorter version would have helped much due to the fundamental flaws in the story, but he should have known well beforehand that taking this basic plot and stretching it out to death was not going to do it any favors.
What we’re left with here is a really big missed opportunity to tell a creepy and engaging tale, one that should have had us engaged with its protagonist every step of the way, instead of having us checking the time every few minutes. It just goes to show how incredibly important the writing is, for when there are obvious problems in the script (problems that should have easily been noticed), then it seems a foregone conclusion that the film is not going to turn out well. Alas, this resulted in another box office disaster for Verbinski, so as before, it will be interesting to see where his career goes from here, or if it will be able to recover at all. Hopefully whatever he moves onto next will be a little more thought-out than this so he can finally get things back on track.
“A Cure for Wellness” comes to Blu-ray in a 1.78:1, 1080p High Definition transfer of excellent quality. This can be a dark and dreary film at times, but the picture always remains perfectly sharp and clear, allowing the incredible production design to shine. The 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio is fantastic as well, giving you all of the dialogue and Benjamin Wallfisch’s score in outstanding quality. Overall, the film has been given top-notch treatment, leaving you with the best experience possible.
Deleted Sequence (5 Minutes): A deleted scene that was easily lost from the film.
Meditations (9 Minutes): A pointless inclusion that features a series of meditations, focusing on water, air, and earth.
The Score (4 Minutes): A brief featurette focusing on the score, featuring an interview with Benjamin Wallfisch.
“A Cure for Wellness” boasts a talented lead in Dane DeHaan and a great director in Gore Verbinski, but thanks to a screenplay that features a multitude of superfluous scenes and a twist that anyone could guess by the halfway mark, the result is an extremely plodding, meandering, and lengthy film that fails to leave any impact. This could have been a rather intriguing mystery, but instead it’s just another example of how incredibly important it is to get the screenplay right before anything else happens, for without that solid foundation, there’s little chance that the film will turn out the way it was intended.