The first major misfire of 2017 reunites the writer and director of “The Lone Ranger” (2013) for another cinematic misfortune.
What begins as a layered and complex suspense thriller, continues to pile on subplot after subplot until the two-and-a-half hour mystery becomes an endurance test for the audience.
Gore Verbinski (“The Mexican,” “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End”) isn’t one who understands precision. For the majority of the film he has Dane DaHaan (“The Amazing Spider-Man 2”) walking aimlessly from one corridor to another discovering one more confounding piece of this elaborate story.
It starts out like a Tim Burton version of Grand Budapest Hotel but quickly turns into a Shutter Island situation that goes from bad to worse.
The youngest member of a prominent financial services firm in New York is sent to Switzerland to retrieve a senior member before their company endures a catastrophic merger. Lockhart (DaHaan) arrives at the mysterious and renown sanitarium where mostly older, wealthy people from all over, come to drink and bathe in water derived from a special aquifer. It doesn’t take long for one of the guests to confirm Lockhart’s suspicions.
“There is a terrible darkness here,” he says.
Lockhart’s objective is prohibited by the unsettling white coat staff as well as a devastating car crash that leaves his leg in a cast. The history of this mysterious hospital begins to reveal clues to that darkness and the disappearing patients, but the more information he seeks, the deeper into the facade he sinks.
The script throws entirely too much content at the audience, most of it unnecessary narrative fat that could have easily been trimmed to make this a more succinct film. Leading characters’ father’s suicide, mother’s delirious premonitions, village omens, mysterious cooperation with dying employees, an elaborate back story involving the hospital and The Baron, it’s entirely too many subplots that muddle up the films driving force.
It’s a disappointing downward spiral that began with stunning chopper shots up the winding Swiss roads at the foot of the alps and impressive sound editing throughout. Characters speak in riddles only creating more questions with each conversation. Verbinski’s direction seems to relish the elaborate weirdness but to no end.
There are scenes of extreme violence with animals (all CGI) and mostly they have no bearing on the script beyond shock value. “A Cure for Wellness” is a lot of fancy set dressing to conceal just another hooey psycho thriller. Not shy of nude bodies or dark sexual misgivings, the script toys with how much mainstream grotesque imagery audiences will tolerate.
Much like Lockhart, every time you want to give up, the film falsely implies that the ends will justify the means.
“We are the only species with the ability of self-reflection,” the narrative said.
Perhaps Verbinski can use some self-reflection to understand why his films are so misguided and unnecessarily burdensome.
Final Thought — Extravagant absurdity of the worst kind.