Gore Verbinski’s psychological thriller of 2017 shocked many with its style and disturbing imagery, but also managed to divide audiences with the same tools. This film is weird, but it is not a bad film whatsoever. While the basis for the film has been done numerous times before, none of them have done it like this.
The story begins when a young ambitious business executive, played by Dane DeHaan, is tasked with retrieving a board member from a wellness center at the bottom of the Swiss Alps. However, when he gets there, he slowly unravels the disturbing history and truth of the so-called “wellness center”. Not surprisingly, things are not what they seem to be.
While this story is far from original, it does differ itself from other films in the same ring such as Scorcese’s “Shutter Island” and even “American Horror Story’s” second season “Asylum” in its visual style and plot layout. Other than its cinematography and pacing, it does have familiar elements such as flashback sequences and hallucinations, but it also implies that the protagonist may be insane himself.
The film itself is beautiful and different. Every drawn out scene feels like a masterpiece of cinematography, from the steam shower scene to the water tank scene, and more. Also, the acting overall is spectacular. Dane DeHaan gives one of his best performances yet as Lockhart, as he begins to dive headfirst into paranoia and insanity as the film progresses. Jason Isaacs as Dr. Volmer, the head of the wellness center and implied antagonist was properly unsettling, but also seemingly genuine as a helpful doctor throughout the film. Mia Goth as Hannah, a naive and interesting character, and the only young patient at the wellness center did a great job as well. These great characters are a product of a great script. The dialogue felt believable, and Lockhart’s decent to chaos throughout the film was written wonderfully. Yet, while the story, cinematography and acting were all spectacular, there were a few flaws.
The film is painfully long, which will turn away many moviegoers. Just as well, the pacing is very slow. While not really a huge flaw, many will not have the patience to sit through this movie. The disturbing scenes of the film, while done beautifully, are very spread out and do not build considerable tension from scene to scene. Also, the third act has an unapologetically theatrical style which seems to betray the previous two acts’ psychological mind-bending essence. While it is understandable by the end of the film why it is so theatrical, it does seem to detract from some of the earlier disturbing scenes. Also, while most of the imagery is done beautifully, some symbols become more than just metaphors by the end of the film, which is disappointing when so much of the film feels like a hallucination. However, the reasons behind this are also evident by the end of the film.
All in all, the film was amazing. The flaws the film has are purposeful, and I understand why the filmmakers did what they did by the end of the movie. Everything in this film is done with a purpose, but that does not mean that many moviegoers will appreciate or even understand this. While I do get why many average moviegoers are not fans of this film, I do not get why critics are. This film is different, it is beautiful, it is twisted, it is has well-realized characters. While the filmmakers made some weird decisions, I think the film is better for it, as it stands out even more. If you want a psychological thriller that is weird, different and beautifully shot? Go see this film on a Friday night. Even if you do not like it, you and your friends will have a good conversation topic.