Published on October 24th, 2014 | by gareth0
In the late 19th century in England, medicine was by today’s standards primitive and at times barbaric. The nature of psychiatric care of the times was even more frightening as maladies that today are treated with medication often resulted in a lifetime of confinement in an Asylum where all manner of treatments which today would be considered torture were used.
In the new thriller “Stonehearst Asylum” a young doctor named Edward Newgate (Jim Sturgess), travels to a remote asylum on Christmas Eve to being a practical study following his time at Oxford.
He is greeted upon his arrival by Silas Lamb (Ben Kingsley, who is eager to size up the new assistant upon his arrival.
Newgate is fascinated by the patients especially one named Eliza (Kate Beckinsale), who shows a grace and range of talents not normally associated with those who have been committed. It is explained that all of those assigned to Stonehearts are from the upper class of society and as such, their maladies have made them outcasts from polite society.
Edward begins to have concerns when he is told by Eliza that he must leave immediately and not return and despite her warnings, he remains and soon makes a startling discovery.
It is learned that a patient named Salt (Michael Caine) is actually the man in charge of the facility and that Lamb is a dangerous psychopath who has imprisoned or killed the asylum staff and has replaced them with his fellow inmates.
Trapped in a world gone mad, Edward must strive to do his duty as a physician to care for those in need, while trying to walk the line between the madness of Lamb and his fellow inmates.
The film is a well-cast and exciting thriller that keeps you entertained without resorting to the standard scares and tricks of other suspense films.
The characters have a complexity and compassion to them as you will find yourself engrossed by the various characters and their situations.
Director Brad Anderson is no stranger to suspense and he has crafted a captivating take that is rich with the visuals of the era yet remaining a character based drama it its core.
The film is based on a short story by Edgar Allen Poe and Mel Gibson is one of the Producers attached to the film which helps underscore how they were able to assemble such a strong cast to the film despite the lack of a major studio to finance or distribute the film.
The film does have some moments that at times make you wonder why some characters did not take more obvious courses of action but yet the film works in spite of this.
In the end the haunting setting and subject matter mesh well with the characters to create a thrilling and entertaining drama that is one of the more enjoyable surprises of the year.
4 stars out of 5