The Good Nurse Review

PLOT: Amy (Jessica Chastain), a compassionate nurse, discovers that her co-worker and friend, Charlie (Eddie Redmayne), may be responsible for the death of a patient. Little does she know; the truth runs deeper.

REVIEW: The Good Nurse is one of Netflix’s big October releases, and it’s fitting that the streamer would release this in time for Halloween as, despite not being a horror movie in the traditional sense, it’s pretty damn terrifying. For those not in the know, the film is based on the exploits of Charlie Cullen, a notorious serial killer responsible for the deaths of at least forty people, but, ultimately, the number might be closer to 400. If this number is anywhere near accurate, he may be the most prolific serial killer in history.

What makes The Good Nurse especially terrifying is that the fact-based drama makes it clear that the medical establishment could have stopped Cullen early in his reign but ultimately was more concerned with covering their end than helping people. Cullen was allowed to run amuck, and when enough patients would mysteriously die, he would be dismissed, with his nursing licence intact. They were so concerned with repercussions that they wouldn’t even dare give him a bad reference.

The film shows, in breathtaking detail, how criminal the hospitals were. Were it not for the dogged persistence of some cops and a heroic nurse, Cullen might still be killing people now.

The movie centres around nurse Amy Loughlin- a young, single mother struggling to stay afloat. She has heart disease and badly needs a transplant, but she’s without health insurance and can only get it once she’s been working as a nurse at her new hospital for an entire year. Jessica Chastain plays her as thoroughly compassionate but a realist. She knows that she’ll be fired if the hospital gets wind of her illness. To her, Eddie Redmayne’s Charlie is a godsend. He soon realizes how ill she is, and he vows to help her, siphoning off meds through a foolproof system he devised and eventually acting as a surrogate father to her children. Being gentle and soft-spoken, Redmayne plays Charlie as almost too good to be true, and it takes a long time for Chastain’s Amy to even begin to suspect that her saviour is a killer.

Indeed, Cullen’s method was hard to track simply because he had no pattern. He would kill anyone if given a chance. He would inject their IV bags with insulin or another clear liquid, and that would be that. It would seem like they died naturally. Redmayne delivers an unsettling performance due to how he can mask his evil nature. He’s not socially awkward. Instead, he’s welcoming and kind, and his need to kill is so routine it’s banal. All of this, however, makes him the perfect killer. He kills people the way others do laundry.

The Good Nurse is an excellent showcase for Chastain, who evokes sympathy for Amy and plays the role in a low-key, naturalistic way. Redmayne has the showier part, but you believe Chastain as the sick but devoted nurse. Her chemistry with her co-star is so warm that you don’t want to think he’s a killer, even though you know it right from the start.

It all adds to a chilling study of evil, with Cullen a truly unsettling monster. But, as scary as he is, director Tobias Lindholm and writer Krysty Wilson-Cairns (1917) acknowledge over and over that the inhumane hospital administrators are just as much to blame, with Kim Dickens as a former nurse turned admin emerging as almost as cold-blooded a character as Cullen. She’s excellent, as are Nnamdi Asomugha and the always great Noah Emmerich as the two cops who realize, long before anyone else, was Cullen is up to and are hellbent on taking him down.

Indeed, The Good Nurse is one of the scariest films I’ve seen in a while, as Redmayne plays a very real boogeyman. It’s not hard to imagine that there are plenty of other potential Charles Cullen’s out there and, along with the recent Dr. Death, there’s no shortage of medical horror stories that can be turned into tv shows or movies. The Good Nurse tells one of the worst horror stories imaginable, made even scarier by the fact that it’s all true.


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About the Author

Chris Bumbray began his career with JoBlo as the resident film critic (and James Bond expert) way back in 2007, and he has stuck around ever since, being named editor-in-chief in 2021. A voting member of the CCA and a Rotten Tomatoes-approved critic, you can also catch Chris discussing pop culture regularly on CTV News Channel.