[Screen It]


(2017) (Dane DeHaan, Jason Isaacs) (R)

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Suspense/Horror: A young man must contend with his slipping grip on reality when he's institutionalized at a foreign sanitarium where he was sent to retrieve his missing boss.
Lockhart (DANE DeHAAN) is a young stockbroker working for a Manhattan-based financial services company. With their CEO, Harold Pembroke (HARRY GROENER), having seemingly given up all capitalistic interests while spending time at a Swiss sanitarium run by Dr. Volmer (JASON ISAACS), Lockhart has been tasked with traveling there and returning the executive so that their company's merger can go through. He does so and eventually ends up at the establishment in the Swiss Alps above a local village where the residents there aren't the best of neighbors. Those at the sanitarium, however, including Victoria Watkins (CELIA IMRIE), seem quite content to spend their days reading, dining, playing croquet and making sure to drink plenty of the provided water that supposedly has rejuvenating properties.

When Lockhart initially can't get Pembroke out of the place, he heads back down the mountain to seek lodging, only to be involved in a single car accident that results in him waking up three days later in the sanitarium, his leg in a cast. Unable to return to New York, he starts poking around the place that grows increasingly suspicious to him, what with odd occurrences happening at night, all while he's beguiled by a young patient there, Hannah (MIA GOTH), who seems out of place among all of the much older clientele.

As Lockhart tries to figure out what's really happening at the sanitarium, his grip on reality begins to slip, what with drinking all of that special water that now has him wondering if he's simply developed paranoid hallucinations or if something truly nefarious is occurring there.

OUR TAKE: 4 out of 10
A half-century or so ago, the common notion was that technology was going to give people amazing amounts of free time to do as they please, with automation, robots and such doing all of life's menial and time-consuming tasks.

But as we all now know, the reverse has occurred. With many "chores" now easier to accomplish, management has simply added more work, while nearly everyone has become addicted to their smartphones, tablets, computers and other technology.

All of which means most people are working harder (and longer) than their generational predecessors with far less downtime. And that can ultimately only lead to disaster, be that in terms of romantic relationships, family time and one's health.

That certainly seems to be the opening salvo of "A Cure For Wellness" where we see a man working late hours at his office, only to keel over dead from what appears to be a heart attack. If only he had followed in the footsteps of his boss (Harry Groener) who's left the country for some R & R at a Swiss sanitarium high atop a mountain peak in the Alps.

I'm kidding, of course, as no worker bee would be allowed such a luxury. And such a trip isn't sitting well with the other executives at the Manhattan-based financial services company that's ready for a corporate merger, only to face their leader having flown the coop, so to speak. And that's not only from their company, but also apparently from the rat race and trappings of capitalism, all as evidenced by a message from him about having now shunned that sort of life.

The powers that be then decide to send an up and coming young employee (Dane DeHaan) on a business variation of "Hearts of Darkness" (see also "Apocalypse Now") extraction plan to get the CEO and return him stateside pronto for the signing of the appropriate merger docs. But just like Joseph Conrad's tale, our young protagonist soon gets caught up in this strange world and its trappings.

And those are all centered on the sanitarium (a.k.a. an old castle with a checkered and violent past, natch, from centuries ago) where lots of older white folks like our former CEO are leading robe-clad lives of playing croquet, receiving spa-like treatments and generally lounging about like half-sedated cult followers at some old age commune. All while the director there (Jason Isaacs) is obviously up to no good (the various attempts at subtly and keeping him shaded in gray don't work as well as intended).

Young Lockhart isn't successful at convincing Pembroke to depart, and ends up as a patient himself following a bad run-in with a deer on the drive down the mountain. Now with his leg in a cast, he starts to question the odd little peculiarities of the place that soon grow bigger as his grasp on reality seems increasingly compromised, all while trying to figure out how a teen patient (Mia Goth) fits into the overall situation and equation.

To anyone who's seen "Shutter Island" and other films of that ilk, this will all seem fairly familiar as we watch the protagonist (who sort of looks like a young Leonardo DiCaprio) try to figure out what's going on while simultaneously attempting to decipher what's real and what's some sort of hallucination, with both offering nightmarish prospects and visuals.

Speaking of the latter, this offering is filled with plenty of Gothic horror inspired ones, but the cinematography and production design are about the best the film has to offer. Director Gore Verbinski -- working from a screenplay by Justin Haythe -- certainly piles on the visual panache, but everything else ends up overblown, rote and predictable, and ultimately fairly boring especially considering the far-too-long runtime of 146 minutes.

By the time the "big" reveal and finale finally lumber up onto the screen, the proceedings have slipped into "B" movie preposterousness (but not of the guilty pleasure variety) that doesn't do the offering or any of its parts any favors. And by then you'll have long since realized that all of the gothic horror trappings, hallucinations and such have been much ado about nothing. "A Cure For Wellness" won't cure much that ails you, especially if you have a fever for well-made films. It rates no better than a 4 out of 10.

Reviewed February 2, 2017 / Posted February 17, 2017

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