Unsane is Steven Soderbergh‘s first foray into the horror genre. After his supposed retirement a few years ago, he has returned to the big screen with vengeance. Logan Lucky was a great heist flick drawing a lot of influence from his previous film Ocean’s 11. And now he has managed to make a very tense thriller using nothing more than an iPhone.
Claire Foy plays a young woman who has relocated after an experience with a stalker. When she begins to see her stalker’s face everywhere, she goes to a therapist and is involuntary admitted to a mental hospital. Foy’s character doesn’t believe she belongs there, and when she begins to see her stalker again it only further complicates things.
It is amazing to see what Soderbergh has done here with just an iPhone and some good lighting. It never really feels like a gimmick, as the look of the iphone footage really adds to the paranoia of the movie. People are going to watch Unsane and have zero idea that it was shot with a phone instead of a giant camera. A lot of what elevates this movie has to do with the performances. Claire Foy is outstanding as the lead, as she is able to brilliantly walk the line making the audience wonder if she is actually crazy or not. Joshua Leonard has some great scenes towards the end of the film, and Jay Pharoah is really good as well. I hope we can start seeing him in more serious movies, and even more comedies which his career has been based in up to this point. He’s definitely more than just an impressionist, and shows it in this movie.
The main thing that this movie has going for it is posing the question of whether or not Foy’s character is insane or not. This makes the audience question who and what they believe. The problem is that Unsane gives us the answer to this question rather early on. It doesn’t really fully commit to its answer till later, but most of the deliberating you do as the viewer is over fairly early on. It also drags on at the end, and becomes a little over the top compared to the grounded approach it’d had taken so far. The film also has this tendency to set up characters, and then just kind of toss them aside when it isn’t quite sure what direction to take them in in. The very end of the film also felt incredibly cheesy and cheap to me, and was completely un-needed.
While I have only said negative things so far, there is plenty to like about Unsane as well. This is an incredibly tense thriller, and does a good job of not settling throughout. There are lot different instances where it could have taken the easy way out, but instead it constantly is trying to find a way to surprise you and subvert expectations. There are some also some fantastic patches of dialogue in a few end scenes that are very well written. Soderbergh’s direction is also never a bad thing, and what he does here with just an iphone, and $1 million really showcases just how talented he is. Unsane probably isn’t blow you away, but it is a pretty enjoyable thriller.