Justin Haythe has the screenwriting credits on Snitch, The Lone Ranger, and Revolutionary Road, none of which would have prepared me for the strange, twisted, and critical take revealed in the darkest of parables, A Cure for Wellness. While families have come to know Gore Verbinski for his team-ups with Johnny Depp in the Pirates of the Caribbean series and Rango, he takes Haythe’s script and revisits the previous territory of The Ring to scare us into nightmares.
In the opening scene, a businessman succumbs, apparently to the widowmaker heart attack, dying amidst his work. When Lockhart (Dane DeHaan, Chronicle, Amazing Spiderman 2) takes his place, but is quickly blackmailed into traveling from New York City to the Swiss Alps, to retrieve the company’s CEO. At a mysterious retreat center, the CEO refuses to return to complete a merger (and be pinned for financial fraud), and Lockhart finds himself drawn deeper into a psychological maze of terror.
At the spa, Lockhart meets the question-dodging Dr. Heinreich Volmer (Jason Isaacs), who assures him that people come to the spa to be cleansed of what ails them – the trappings of the outside world. While the trip to the spa takes Lockhart through a beautiful vista (shot in various German locations), the shabbiness within reveals that comfort and care for patients is not actually the focus.
Hannah (Mia Goth) intrigues Lockhart, and a series of events find him unwilling (or unable?) to leave. He’s exploring the mysteries of the retreat center, and the neighboring town, but his urban outsider mentality can’t quite wrap its mind around what he sees. His sense of himself – and his surroundings – have been worn down by his equally ridiculous job ambition. While he may be ‘trapped’ in the Alps, he’s equally trapped in his own pursuit of ‘more.’
While it’s clear that A Cure for Wellness aims high, it’s not absolutely successful in its delivery. It’s good but not great in its exploration. Still, DeHaan’s acting is believable in both its brash sensibilities and its terrified ones, with ample room for us to consider what we chase, what traps us, and what we would sacrifice to break out.
Special features on the Blu-ray/DVD/Digital HD combo pack out today are the deleted sequence “It’s Wonderful Here” as well as the score, trailers, and a feature on “Meditations.”