That the movie works at all is thanks to Michael Fassbender, for the most part remarkably subdued here, and Knightley, for the most part remarkably and uncharacteristically out-of-control here. I've never seen Fassbender give a bad performance, but I've had my doubts about Knightley and whether she can really make a film watchable. Here, she veers sharply out of her normal range and tries something intense, with Russian accent and all. I'm not sure if she hits every mark, but as flailing, stuttering, and deeply passionate Sabina, Jung's most valued patient, she certainly leaves a big impression.
The film opens with her kicking and screaming, having to be restrained on the way to the hospital where Jung works, which sets the tone for the film's charged opening half. Jung wants to use his eventual friend and then bitter rival Sigmund Freud (Viggo Mortensen)'s new idea for therapy, psychoanalysis or "the talking cure," and chooses Sabina as his first subject. It works very well, as it unearths unsettling truths about her damaged psyche (like how she likes to be beaten). Jung is pulled in by her indisputable magnetism, away from his rich and frankly pretty boring wife Emma (Sarah Gadon), especially when a psychiatrist he takes on as a patient (Vincent Cassel) emphasizes his distaste with monogamy.
Adapted from a book and then a play, "A Dangerous Method" is extremely dialogue-heavy, which works just fine at the beginning but ends up getting to be a little bit too much towards the ending. The film is also awkwardly edited and sequenced; very few scenes feel as if they follow each other naturally. I also felt as though it got increasingly less characteristic of Cronenberg as it went on. Some say it's not like him at all, but for me the beginning seems like a pretty snug fit in his oeuvre (even though I've only seen "A History of Violence"). Later on, however, as the score gets more and more generic and the plotting more and more disjointed, "A Dangerous Method" hardly feels distinct at all. C+