Unsane. Nope. Sorry. No Way. Not happening.
Steven Soderbergh is back. He announced he was retiring from filmmaking, pretty calling out damnation to all of Hollywood in the process, back in 2013 when no one went to see Side Effects in theaters (which, to be fair, I didn’t). However, he made his return last year with Logan Lucky and is now continuing to ride that momentum with his newest film, Unsane.
Soderbergh (not to be confused with Steven Spielberg, of course) has a strong reputation in Hollywood. Pretentious is too strong of a word to use, but he often tries to be revolutionary with his films — both story-wise and technical-wise — for better or worse.
Unsane will do nothing but build on to that reputation, as Soderbergh decided to film this entire movie on an iPhone camera. More on that later.
Sawyer Valentini (Claire Foy) never wanted a complicated life. She’s made an effort to have as normal of an existence as possible: she has a normal job, normal family and normal friends.
But she never could escape David (Joshua Leonard). The two met when Sawyer was working as a caregiver in a hospice. She helped care for David’s dad and David, more or less, decided to latch on to her. Latch on to her in the creepiest of ways possible, doing things like breaking into her apartment and leaving love letters.
Sawyer has done her best to try and escape David — moving to a different apartment, changing phone numbers, deleting her Facebook, the whole works really — but he still not always finds her. Scratch that, he doesn’t just find her here or there; Sawyer sees David literally everywhere.
Which is how Sawyer finds herself in a mental institution, being treated for a variety of different things that could potentially cause such severe hallucinations. It’s not real, they tell her. David is long, long gone. She must be imagining this all.
Well, it must be a pretty strong imagination then because Sawyer is now seeing David as one of the guards working in the mental institution she’s staying in — meaning her life is being threatened every single day.
Problem is, she can’t get out. It’s a secure facility that won’t hesitate to throw its patients into solitary confinement at the slightest sign of misbehavior. Like it or not, she’s stuck here. All alone. Except for David.
And that’s why I’m never going to a hospital again.
Yes, Soderbergh wanted to be innovative and different by filming this entire thing on an iPhone camera. Watching Unsane I don’t see a clear reason why he chose to use this method, and I’d also like to point out he’s not the FIRST person to do such a thing — Sean Baker did back in 2015 with Tangerine, which is a better movie than Unsane.
I’ll give him credit, though, in how seamless he makes it feel. Just because Tangerine did it first doesn’t mean it can’t ever be done again, and Unsane does do some pretty cool and unique things in its filmmaking.
None of this is the reason why I liked Unsane, though — I liked the movie simply because it was a really interesting and creepy story.
Right from the get-go, we’re all questioning whether or not Sawyer is insane and David is a real person. We barely get any time to see her in the outside world to further the mystery, as she’s admitted into the mental institution within the first ten minutes.
Yes, we’ve seen the whole ‘is this real or just imagination’ trick many times in movies before, but Unsane does it better than most. That’s because it doesn’t dwell on this whole ambiguous mystery the whole time. Instead, it just offers up tension and then lets audiences decide for themselves what’s real and what isn’t.
From the minute we enter this building, Soderbergh creates a feeling of pure dread. There’s a strong sense of claustrophobia to the whole place, as we realize the inescapability of this entire situation. There’s no getting out, whether she’s crazy or not. We’re stuck there with her, inside these four walls, watching the clock tick inside this dimly lit room.
The tension then amplifies with the character of David, who may or may not actually be there, made possible through a believable and actually kind of brilliant performance by Joshua Leonard. Claire Foy is just as brilliant, as she conveys the frustration and defeat associated with her characters in such a clever way. We do seem our most crazy when we’re trying to convince other people that we’re normal, after all, and Foy shows this well.
Like many Soderbergh movies, Unsane suffers from going on for too long and having multiple endings when they really should have just ended it after the first. This isn’t as bad of an example of this as Logan Lucky was, but it’s still an issue.
Still, Unsane could have easily been an unwatchable piece of crap that existed only because Soderbergh wanted to prove how much of a filmmaking hipster he was. That’s not the case though — there’s actually an emphasis on story and tension here, which create a highly entertaining ride.
Watch the trailer for Unsane here and then let us know, in the comments below: did you see this movie? What were your thoughts? Are you a fan of Steven Soderbergh? What do you want to see him do next?
I'm never going to a hospital again: 'Unsane' review7