Steven Soderbergh’s latest film, Unsane—his second after a four-year breather—is the kind of film being spoke of mainly due to the director’s decision to shoot the film on an iPhone camera. I’ll admit that I found the idea to be a bit gimmicky. It’s one thing when a director does such a thing because they have no other resources at their disposal, as director Sean Baker did with his 2015 drama Tangerine. Soderbergh, of course, is a filmmaker with clout and has ready access to the tools needed to make the types of films he wishes to make. The fact that Unsane was shot with fish-eye style lenses on a camera phone reeks of marketing ploy as much as anything else.
Thankfully, Unsane is such a solid and tight thriller that it would probably work well regardless of the camera on which it was shot. The lower resolution and overall darkness of the picture is a bit distracting at first but once the story grabs hold it’s easy enough to forget the tools used to assemble the film and get lost in the experience. The film’s story takes hold and all of the technical stuff fades into the background. If Soderbergh was looking to prove that storytelling is the most important factor as to whether a film rises or falls then I believe he’s more or less succeeded.
Clair Foy, star of the TV series The Crown, is Sawyer, the heroine of the picture. It’s quickly established that she’s just recently started a new job and has moved 450 miles away in her quest to start a new life. It’s soon revealed that she left not just for the career change, but also because that she’s been stalked relentlessly by an ex boyfriend.
Sawyer signs on for some therapy and is soon told by her shrink that she’s being committed. Sawyer protests that she’s fine and doesn’t want to stay. Of course, no one believes her. Pretty soon things get even worse when Sawyer discovers that her stalking ex boyfriend is now employed at the very same psychiatric facility where she’s being held against her will. Everything is seen from Sawyer’s point of view but whether that is real or imagined is always in question.
Unsane owes a great debt to the 1964 film Shock Corridor, which has a similar plot. Soderbergh has taken that story and goosed it up with some contemporary sensibilities and made it work. It’s a thriller in the grand tradition of the best ones. It may not reach the heights of the established classics but it’s pretty good on its own terms.
Image: Clair Foy in Unsane
Unsane is playing in Hickory and all around this area.
Questions or comments? Write Adam at firstname.lastname@example.org.