Directed by: Gore Verbinski
A fantastic idea and concept can be found within this confused film that is filled with many superb moments, only to be matched by almost as many moments whose silliness contrast horribly against the excellent story and the welcome theme of wealth, selfishness and human ambition in modern society as a sickness that requires a cure. Given that such characteristics are considered a positive trait in the worlds of business/politics, the title is appropriate as well as eye-catching.
After a brief but hefty introduction that lurks as the story progresses, we meet Lockhart, a confident young executive at a large firm- a firm with plans for a major merger. The only hitch is that the CEO of the company is required to sign off on the deal, but has fled the United States for the Swiss Alps, leaving only a cryptic, hand-written note explaining his reasons for leaving the world of commerce for a vaguely defined ‘centre for wellness’. The consensus that the man has lost his mind is reached, and Lockhart, having just bent the rules to secure a business deal, is given the job by his unhappy superiors to travel to Europe, find Pembroke, and to escort him home, long enough at least for his signature to appear on the required dotted lines.
It isn’t long until Lockhart is visiting the facility, an aesthetically pleasing piece of architecture surrounded by the vastness of the Alps. It is soon noticeable that he is by far the youngest person on the grounds, though he finds that he is constantly having to remind both staff and patients that he is visiting, that he is not a patient.
A car accident causes him to require medical care, and suddenly he is a patient, taking part in rehabilitation techniques that give us cause to question his sanity, as well as his attitude toward the facility. Is he falling under their spell? Is he wearing a poker face? Has he lost his mind entirely?
These questions are amplified as his stay increases, unable to leave due to his leg being badly injured in the accident. Dane DeHaan, playing Lockhart, shares excellent screen chemistry with the head of the facility and head physician, Volmer, played by Jason Isaacs. Isaacs exerts small amounts of many characteristics: concern, empathy, a want to help other people. But this is off-set by his ever so slight emotionless demeanour that isn’t outrageous, but is enough to give the viewer second thought. This plays excellently into the confusion Lockhart is now experiencing as he tries to figure out if the place is legitimate, not to mention if he insane or not.
The director’s roots in bigger spectacles on screen unfortunately shine through during the final act, as what could have been a tight, 100-minute psych-thriller is turned on its head by a final 30 minutes that isn’t only unneeded in that it adds nothing to an already interesting story, it also strips away any ambiguity one could take away from this film. Not only this, but the film feels as if it is going to end at least five times, only to continue into increasingly ridiculous territory like a domino effect.
When it finally does end, the subject about which the finale centres tries hard to seem meaningful, to seem ‘deep’, but it comes off as subtle as a shotgun blast. Let us not forget that these final minutes have nearly nothing to do with the rest of the movie, especially the themes that were at the core of its interesting concept.
While the ending makes it obvious where the director’s origins lie, if it weren’t for final 30 minutes this could have been an incredible movie. It is though nice to see a director of such big films decide to create something smaller, with lesser-known actors. Featuring some extremely polished camerawork- both indoors and out, taking full advantage of the surrounding Alps- fantastic acting all around, and a concept that is extremely relevant in a society where selfishness is increasingly seen as a virtue, it is a pity that this film didn’t continue its exploration of these themes rather than delving into a ridiculous final act devoid of any meaning, or sense. This stark contrast to what had been built up ruins what what had been a fantastic experience.
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