The Good Nurse (Review) – This Medical Thriller Really Scrubs Up

DIRECTOR: Tobias Lindholm

CAST: Jessica Chastain, Eddie Redmayne, Nnamdi Asomugha, Noah Emmerich, Kim Dickens

RUNNING TIME: 121 mins

CERTIFICATE: 15

BASICALLY…: A nurse (Chastain) suspects that her co-worker (Redmayne) is behind a series of patient deaths…

NOW FOR THE REVIEW…

Our collective fascination with real-life serial killers isn’t helped by there being so many movies and TV shows chronicling their stomach-churning acts for intrigued audiences. Take, for example, Netflix’s recent hit miniseries about notorious murderer Jeffrey Dahmer; despite mixed reviews from critics, it’s quickly become one of the streamer’s top ten most-watched shows of all time, and I feel that part of that is down to morbid curiosity about how his much-documented methods would be depicted in a more dramatized format. I now suspect that a similar amount of curiosity will befall the company’s newest original film The Good Nurse, not just because it revolves around a killer who, while not as infamous as Dahmer, was still prolific enough to be considered a real threat, but because the film itself is a strong, engrossing medical thriller that is easily held together by a pair of excellent performances.

Taking place in 2003, we are first introduced to Amy (Jessica Chastain), an ICU nurse at a New Jersey hospital who is working unsociable and scrutinous hours, on top of looking after her two young daughters as a single mother, as well as a serious heart condition that she desperately needs health insurance for. Soon, along comes a new recruit named Charles Cullen (Eddie Redmayne), who quickly befriends Amy and, at first, appears to be a patient’s dream; he’s kind, caring, attentive, and above all good at what he does. Or, perhaps, not quite as good at what he does, as a string of sudden patient deaths – connected by a mysterious overdose of insulin in their system – soon leads Amy to suspect that Charlie has been injecting it into their IV bags, and she begins working with detectives Baldwin (Nnamdi Asomugha) and Braun (Noah Emmerich) to expose both Cullen as a prolific murderer, and the several hospitals that had practically enabled his behaviour by shoving it all under the rug.

Directed by Danish filmmaker Tobias Lindholm (in his English-language debut), from a script by Oscar-nominated writer Krysty Wilson-Cairns (of 1917 and, more recently, Edgar Wright’s Last Night in Soho), The Good Nurse works best as a taut medical thriller, wherein it’s very possible that the real monster at work isn’t necessarily the serial killer. Wilson-Cairns’ script puts a heavy amount of blame onto the hospital corporate system, and the conspiracy they partook in to basically cover up murder just to save their own legal skins, which involves stonewalling the police at every turn and not even handing over all the paperwork of their supposed investigation into this guy. Through some calculated and precise direction, Lindholm manages to expose their culpability without ever giving any exact answers; as the closing titles say, none of the hospitals that Cullen worked for over the years were ever charged for stuff that is just as criminal as actual murder, but it’s made both clear and reasonably compelling through this writing and direction that there is far more to be said and unearthed about this particular case, and how much bigger than just this one guy it seems to be.

Less successful, though, is whenever it suddenly switches to a more straightforward police procedural narrative. While they are certainly necessary to the story that the cops get involved with catching this guy, and to further drive home the hospital’s underlying accountability, the scenes themselves between Asomugha and Emmerich’s detective characters do feel like they’re straight out of a Law & Order spin-off show – right down to the police chief breathing down their necks for not playing things entirely by the book – and they do disrupt the psychological tone that gives The Good Nurse the neat kick that a medical thriller like this really needs. It soon got to a point whenever the film would switch from the compelling stuff with the two main characters and the corruption within the hospital system, to these detectives slowly piecing together this puzzle, that I wasn’t necessarily becoming bored but I was finding myself focusing on different things, other than all this old-hat procedural work that was stopping the more interesting movie from progressing.

Nonetheless, the film does a good job at sucking you in to the uneasy atmosphere that Chastain’s Amy finds herself unable to truly run away from, and so much of that has to do with how excellent both she and Redmayne are in this movie. Their performances range from sympathetic to extremely unsettling, particularly Redmayne who has that inanely good ability to send chills across your skin just by the soft, simple inflictions in his voice, and by how quietly menacing his screen presence is even when he’s supposed to be “normal” (he can just be standing by or sitting next to Chastain, and you’ll feel so uncomfortable in his vicinity). Chastain, by contrast, delivers a grounded turn that’s miles away from her recent Oscar-winning turn as the larger-than-life Tammy Faye Bakker, but her Amy quickly earns sympathy as a realistically burnt-out single mother and dedicated nurse, and as she slowly uncovers more of her co-worker’s nefarious deeds, you feel just as breathless as she literally becomes in a few scenes, even when she participates in those less-interesting scenes with the detectives. Both her and fellow Oscar-winner Redmayne easily carry The Good Nurse with their fiercely on-point, and at times downright sinister, performances which more than make the movie around them entirely watchable.

Whether or not it generates as much audience interest as Netflix’s other current serial killer content, you can count on The Good Nurse to still deliver the goods, largely thanks to some well-tuned filmmaking and acting.

SO, TO SUM UP…

The Good Nurse is a compelling medical thriller that is held together by some strong filmmaking, and especially two excellent turns by Jessica Chastain and Eddie Redmayne, even when the film often disrupts its unnerving tone with familiar procedural conventions.

The Good Nurse is now available to stream on Netflix.

Did you like this review? Want to know when the next one comes out?

Sign up to our e-mail service today, and get our latest reviews and previews sent straight to your inbox!

Search from over ten years of movies here:

Other recent reviews:

Sting (2024, dir. Kiah Roache-Turner)

A mysterious little spider soon grows to terrifying sizes…

Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga (2024, dir. George Miller)

A young Furiosa attempts to make her way home in a post-apocalyptic wasteland…

The Garfield Movie (2024, dir. Mark Dindal)

The lazy cat Garfield comes face-to-face with his long-lost father…

The Strangers: Chapter 1 (2024, dir. Renny Harlin)

A couple find themselves tormented by masked intruders…

IF (2024, dir. John Krasinski)

A young girl develops the ability to see people’s imaginary friends…

Hoard (2024, dir. Luna Carmoon)

A troubled teen begins a dysfunctional relationship with an older man…

Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes (2024, dir. Wes Ball)

Many years after the reign of Caesar, an ape-ruled kingdom comes under threat…

The Fall Guy (2024, dir. David Leitch)

A Hollywood stuntman winds up on an epic misadventure during his latest gig…

Tarot (2024, dirs. Spenser Cohen and Anna Halberg)

A group of teenagers find themselves haunted after messing with spiritual tarot cards…

The Idea of You (2024, dir. Michael Showalter)

A 40-year-old single mother begins a relationship with a much younger pop star…