Director: Gore Verbinski
Cast: Dane Dehan; Jason Isaacs; Mia Goth; Celia Imrie
Plot: An ambitious stockbroker (Dehan) is sent to a mysterious rehabilitation centre in the Swiss Alps in order to retrieve his absent CEO. He soon suspects more sinister goings on and even begins to question his sanity when he finds himself diagnosed with the same ailment as the spa-goers searching for ‘the cure’.
Run Time: 2hr 26min
This is a strange film. I’ll put that out there first, because that is certainly the most striking thing about it when walking away. This is a strange film that critics have not been overly kind to. In many ways, I can see why. This is not a film that everyone will enjoy. It is long, relatively convoluted and has an unsettling atmosphere surrounding it. But I’ll tell you what; I actually enjoyed it quite a lot for several reasons.
This is an astounding looking film, for starters. I’d be happy hanging stills from this on my wall in fact; the framing is that good. Every shot has a reason for how it is executed and the unsettling tone of the movie hinges upon this visual excellence. This is especially evident with any of the numerous shots involving reflections – these are masterfully done and quite beautiful. I was trying to work out if there was any obvious symbolism in the use of these reflections, but I’m not sure whether that really matters. There’s plenty of symbolism stuffed into this package though. Gore Verbinski has had several hits and misses in the past, but this is a far cry from Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End, let me tell you.
The sound design matches the visual style and builds upon this atmosphere. Whether it’s the ambient chirping of the birds and occasional knocking of croquet mallet against ball, combining to simulate the peaceful serenity of the spa, to the eerie creaking of our lead’s crutches as he hobbles through the empty corridors behind the welcoming facade. The audio does an excellent job of building the suspense.
The characters are an interesting bunch for sure. Dehan’s stockbroker, Lockhart, is an initially unlikeable man who, once thrust into this bizarre situation does grow on you, mainly from sympathy over the terrible things that happen to him. There is an attempt to explore a greater depth to him, but this is predictable and really does nothing for the plot. That said, Dehan is excellent in this role and I was rooting for him by the end. Jason Isaacs is a standout as the sinister and mysterious spa director, Dr. Volmer and Mia Goth is suitably bizarre as Hannah, a ‘special case’ patient with an interesting relationship with Volmer. She has an almost mesmerising presence in this film because of how plain weird she is.
The plot and narrative structure are where most critics have slated this film to stumble, and I do agree in some respects. The running time is perhaps overly long and there are several moments that build this engaging mystery then insert awkward exposition which, while not film-breaking, is noticeable on occasion. It also dangles information in front of you several times but stalls for a long while before revealing its secrets, which can be frustrating. For the most part though, I enjoyed this for exactly what it was. I was genuinely pretty intrigued by the story behind the spa and the freakish goings on, which are slowly unravelled as Dehan explores the environment. The ending takes a different tone to the rest of the film (which has definite Shutter Island vibes) but I liked it. It was a satisfying conclusion that left me with very few questions. Some might disapprove however, and I can’t help but wonder if it may have been more effective if left more open to interpretation.
In all, I really enjoyed this movie. I thought it was gorgeous, mysterious and engaging. Not once did I check my watch during the significant run time, which is definitely a good sign. I will say again that this is not a film that everyone will enjoy, but if you enjoyed Shutter Island, I would thoroughly recommend checking this one out. The visual treats on offer here do a lot to back up the ambitious story, which has an almost B-movie feel about it in retrospect, and I’ll definitely be picking up a copy when it’s released on Blu Ray.
Thanks for reading everybody! Tried a slightly different, more professional style on this one, so I’ll let you be the judge of whether it worked or not? As always, any constructive criticism or comments are very much appreciated. Follow me on Twitter @snakeintheplane for updates on whatever other eel slop I might be writing about and I’ll see you guys when we take a look at the next Snake in the Plane!