Todd McCarthy in Venice for The Hollywood Reporter:
“We have to go into uncharted territory,” the psychiatrist Carl Jung observes in regard to his own pioneering work, and the complex, fascinating topic of Jung’s and Sigmund Freud’s touchy relationship and eventual falling out over a beautiful, sexually hysterical patient has been grippingly explored by director David Cronenberg and writer Christopher Hampton in A Dangerous Method. Precise, lucid and thrillingly disciplined, this story of boundary-testing in the early days of psychoanalysis is brought to vivid life by the outstanding lead performances of Keira Knightley, Viggo Mortensen and Michael Fassbender. Sure to be well received by festival audiences in Venice, Telluride, Toronto and New York…
UPDATE: More McCarthy, and excerpts from another favorable review, after the cut.
Shaking off any dusty remnants of a period biographical piece, the film tackles thorny psycho-sexual issues and matters of professional ethics with a frankness that feels entirely contemporary…
Of all of Cronenberg’s films, A Dangerous Method reminds most of the brilliant Dead Ringers, if only because they both so breathtakingly embrace the dramatic dualities within humans, especially when they brush up against the primal subjects of sex and death.
Despite having to cover stages in the trio’s relationships spread over many years, Hampton’s screenplay utterly coheres and never feels episodic. The dialogue is constantly confronting, articulate and stimulating, the intellectual exchanges piercing at times. Cronenberg’s direction is at one with the writer’s diamond-hard rigor; cinematographer Peter Suschitzky provides visuals of a pristine purity augmented by the immaculate fin de l’epoch settings, while the editing has a bracing sharpness than can only be compared to Kubrick’s.
Oliver Lyttelton writing for The Playlist/IndieWIRE says, “Cronenberg’s ‘A Dangerous Method’ An Insightful Look At Sexuality & The Mind”
All in all, it’s a pacy, absorbing picture, and one of real substance (certainly more so than the enjoyable, but somewhat hollow “Eastern Promises”). But if anything keeps it from quite hitting the heights that it could, it’s Hampton’s scripting. It’s not so much the uncompromising manner of the material—an audience member could probably get by on the briefest knowledge of psychoanalysis, which in this day and age most have, and, while the dialogue is sometimes tortuously wordy, the cast are able to make it fly, with only one or two lines sounding clunky. It’s more that Hampton can’t quite stick the landing; Freud and Jung’s feud over the latter moving into more radical, mystical territory isn’t really adequately covered, while a break and then a resumption of the affair between Jung and Sabina kills the momentum of the thing.
Still, if the take off and landing are a bit bumpy, most of “A Dangerous Method” is fearsomely smart, a grown-up film that doesn’t forget to move you even as it fires up the synapses. Mortensen caps off a trilogy of perfect performances for Cronenberg (and is the film’s best bet for award nods, we imagine), the other leads hold their own, at least after that awkward first reel, and it examines the creative and destructive elements of sexuality in a way that very few filmmakers would dare. While we hope that Cronenberg will kick off and play a little more loose the next time out, we’re glad he decided Hampton’s play was worth the effort.