At the Movies with Alan Gekko: The Good Nurse “2022”

At the Movies with Alan Gekko: The Good Nurse “2022”

MPAA Rating: R/ Genre: Crime Drama/ Stars: Jessica Chastain, Eddie Redmayne, Nnamdi Asomugha, Noah Emmerich, Kim Dickens, Malik Yoba/Runtime: 121 minutes

I think it is fairly safe to say that with how intense the world around us’ mutual, if not downright morally in doubt, fascination with true crime can be, one could safely assume that the story of the man considered to be one of the if not the most plentiful serial killer in recent times would be an individual who had already been discussed on podcasts, had a Morgan Freeman-narrated documentary, and even a season on FX’s American Crime Story. Yet the truth of the matter is that the name of one Charles Cullen is one that, by and large, really has not been covered that much in this distinct realm. This is not because there is doubt about if he is the man that law enforcement claims him to be; far from it actually. Rather, it’s due to the fact that if you wish to regale an audience with the tale of this man it is by no means an easy task due to the fact that his acts of criminality are all over, the total number of people he butchered unclear, and his reasons for why he did the horrendous atrocities he did creepily enigmatic. In other words: the main components to his narrative don’t exactly match what we as society have come to expect from our monsters. Thankfully, we can now see that someone in the land of movie magic has decided to give us a take on this man’s story. That person would be a helmer by the name of Tobias Lindholm and who gave us a pair of films called “A Hijacking” and “A War” that were truly fantastic complete with both terrific performances in front of the camera as well as operating with both a potent yet controlled vibe of pathos as well as suspense respectively. To that end we see that Lindholm, after making his mark on Danish cinema for quite a while, is now transitioning over to American cinema with a pair of phenomenal talents in the form of Jessica Chastain and Eddie Redmayne along for the ride for the slice of cinema I am reviewing for you today, 2022’s The Good Nurse. To that end, it should be noted that whilst this slice of cinema might not be as riveting as those other efforts previously mentioned, but the work done behind and especially in front of the camera still manages to be quite riveting as it manages to weave its way through a narrative that is unnerving in every single sense of the word.

The plot is as follows: Based on a truly terrifying true story, The Good Nurse gets its riveting and chilling yarn underway by taking us to just outside a room in a hospital where a patient is quietly resting and all seems tranquil and calm. Or at least that’s before the patient in the room horrifically begins to crash, and the various machines that they are hooked up to start to blare that something isn’t quite right with this particular individual’s wellbeing. From there we see that the first to run in is a nurse by the name of Charlie Cullen who, upon seeing that the life of the patient is in jeopardy, quickly calls out for assistance. Sadly, despite Charlie and everyone else’s best efforts, we see that their efforts are tragically for naught and the patient is lost to the realm of the living. From there, we see that this slice of cinema moves ahead a few years and Charlie has now transferred to a different hospital and it is here where he crosses paths with a fellow, and equally as devoted, nurse by the name of Amy Loughren. Amy, we rather quickly pick up on, is a loving single mom and skilled member of the medical community albeit one who possesses a secret of her own. That being that Amy might be great at looking out for her patients, but who herself is in desperate need of a heart transplant that she sadly cannot get until she qualifies for health insurance in about 6 months. At any rate, we see that Charlie and Amy manage to form quite the terrific friendship with Charlie becoming an integral part of the lives of both Amy and her kids in more ways than one and it soon looks like Amy might finally be able to begin relaxing and looking forward to a brighter future than the one she might have been expecting. Unfortunately for our heroine, we soon see things take a turn for the ominous when patients start eerily passing away and, even more horrifying, all the evidence starts to point a pretty solid finger at her friend Charlie. Thus, with the hospital administration stonewalling the investigation and a pair of dedicated cops desperately trying to come up with answers, we see our heroine volunteer to assist them in their investigation even though by doing so she may not only not like the answers that she finds, but that she might also be going toe to toe with a chilling and nefarious evil that has been masquerading as a man she considers to be one of her closest and dearest friends…..

Now along with its 2 phenomenal lead performances, it should be noted that it doesn’t hurt this slice of cinema in the lead that it also is an extremely well-sculpted, in terms of behind the camera work, slice of cinema complete with an on-point tempo and a wonderful amount of solemn suspense included. Along with that, it should be noted that this is by no means a flamboyant or even extremely visceral film about a ruthless killer even if the work done by the cinematography department does a fantastic job of ensuring that no matter what is occurring at any point in time during this film that you will feel a fairly intense degree of distress whilst the creepy musical accompaniment also makes you feel extremely uneasy throughout even when you don’t have anything to be afraid of. Instead, this slice of cinema when it is operating at the peak of its abilities, is an ominous film that will remind you less of a film like Dahmer from 2002 and more like Spotlight in 2015. By that I mean that this slice of cinema doesn’t really show you a graphic showcase of the criminal activities being committed and instead deals with the immersive investigation into the crimes in question. More than that, this slice of cinema’s screenplay is one that could also best be described as both a tug of war that revolves around who is aware of what and just when exactly they became aware of it as well as an analysis on why someone who could, for all intents and purposes, seem so decent do such terrible things. A fact that this slice of cinema goes into by choosing to present this story through the eyes of the character of Amy since she conveys an empathy for the people in her care that is very much genuine. As a result, we as movie goers find it easier to go along with her on this journey due to seeing this distinction between her and Charlie that exists long before the horrific allegations about him start to fly about. At the same time, this slice of cinema is also one that is operating as a searing slap in the face and condemnation of the upper echelons of the hospital administration that made it so hard in one way or another for investigators to really put the final nail in the lid on this particular case. Yes, the man engaging in multiple horrific acts of murder is most assuredly the stuff that the worst kind of nightmares imaginable are made of, but so too (this movie argues fairly successfully in my opinion) is a system that allowed to him to function whilst also making it difficult for a person with Amy’s condition to get desperately needed benefits. At the same time though, it is in moments where this condemnation results in voice octave levels increasing or fists making contact with furniture that this film is a bit on the weak side due to all the nuance fleeing the room like there’s a 5-alarm fire raging inside. Indeed yes what is being yelled or fists being slammed down about is important, but when inside voices are able to convey what is said just as well if not better…. we really don’t need that level of over the top here to be honest.

Of course, perhaps the key area where this slice of cinema really soars is in regard to the pair of performances given by the two leads as they are no more and no less than absolutely phenomenal in every sense of the word. This starts with Jessica Chastain who has, ever since Zero Dark Thirty in 2012, been one of my favorite actresses no matter if it’s Oscar bait like Molly’s Game and The Eyes of Tammy Faye or a lot more commercial fare like Madagascar 3 or even (dare I say) The Huntsman: Winter’s War. Of course whilst I may kid you on some of those movie choices that I just mentioned, I can also honestly say that what I definitely don’t kid on is that once again Chastain does an absolutely fantastic job here in the role of Amy. Indeed through the point of view of Amy not only do we get the necessary degree of empathy that a chilly and clinical slice of cinema like this requires, but also the low-key tenderness that both her chosen career path necessitates and that also makes her the perfect candidate in the eyes of the police to try and lure Charlie in to confess that he has in fact done the horrific and atrocious things that he is being accused of. To that end, it should be noted that Chastain does manage to give a truly fantastic and nuanced turn here as she is capable of not only bringing a warmth to the scenes where she is interacting with her kids, her patients, and (initially) Charlie but also an icy terror to her interactions with Charlie as the film goes on and she discovers more and more about who he truly is. Suffice it to say that it is quite the impressive performance, but from Chastain I must confess that I really am not all that surprised. Where I am surprised however is in the performance given here by Eddie Redmayne who, his truly revelatory turn as Stephen Hawking in 2014’s The Theory of Everything, is absolutely stunning here. Indeed the character of Charlie is one that could almost be seen as sort of like Norman Bates in a way because, issues with Mother aside, this is a very shy and nebbish type fellow who is also no more and no less than genuine evil. At the same time though, he might be evil, but he also does care about Amy and her family and it is the balance between that nefariousness and genuinely decent attempts to be a “good guy” that Redmayne nails phenomenally well since it was that mix of both apathy and likability that makes the real Charlie such a chilling monster in the first place. With that said though, it should also be pointed that yes Charlie might be a character who reveals himself rather slowly at first, but as the dominoes start to fall and things start coming to a head, we see that he finally starts to cut loose in a sense and Redmayne runs with this and delivers in a way that is both potent yet also genuinely chilling at the same time. Suffice it to say that yes the supporting cast including a chilly yet effective Kim Dickens and the always welcome Noah Emmerich all manage to give fairly well-done performances in their own right, but it is unsurprisingly the work done here by both Chastain and Redmayne that manages to take center stage.

All in all is The Good Nurse the best slice of cinema that deals with a real-life butcher in the way that this one does ever made? Honestly no. If you want that one then I wholeheartedly recommend to you dear reader the star-studded and incredibly lengthy 2007 slice of cinema Zodiac from iconic helmer David Fincher. At the same time however, does that mean that this slice of cinema is bad by any stretch of the imagination? Absolutely not. Not by a long shot. If you’re wanting that then might I recommend the 2005 take on The Zodiac Killer called The Zodiac starring Robin Tunney from The Mentalist and End of Days. Now there was a slice of cinema that, despite a 92 minute runtime, was quite difficult to sit through….At any rate though dear reader, I must admit that, flaws with it aside, I really did dig the heck out of this movie. Indeed The Good Nurse is a stunning and startling crime drama that manages to chill your spine and strike a chord of fear into your heart with a mix of both horror as well as brutality in equal measure. At the same time though, what is even more astonishing is how its helmer manages to transform this narrative about a horrific human monster into a slice of cinema about how crucial decency and looking out for other people can have an impact bigger than we can begin to comprehend. Indeed be it through aiding people when the clinical bureaucracy of the medical industry prevents them from getting the care they desperately need or even how a small amount of just inherent decency can transform how a person sees the world around them, this is a slice of cinema that gives us as moviegoers a chance to see how some light when going up against a tidal wave of darkness really is better than no light at all. Thus when you also factor in wonderful work from both behind the camera as well as from our two powerhouse leads, what you get is a slice of cinema that is riveting and gripping, but also one that definitely has something to say and will leave you with something to think about long after the credits finally begin to roll. Make of that dear reader what thou will. On a scale of 1-5 I give The Good Nurse a solid 3.5 out of 5.