Director Steven Soderbergh
Genre Thriller | Horror
Cast Claire Foy, Joshua Leonard, Juno Temple, Jay Pharoah
Release Date March 23rd, 2018
From acclaimed writer and director Steven Soderbergh, the man who brought us Traffic, Ocean’s Eleven, Side Effects, and most recently Logan Lucky, Unsane is a thriller about a young woman who is involuntarily committed to a mental institution and forced to face her greatest fear. Is it real, or a product of her delusion? An accomplished writer, Soderbergh did not pen the script and instead left those duties up to Jonathan Bernstein and James Greer. The cast includes Claire Foy, Joshua Leonard, Juno Temple, Jay Pharoah, Polly McKie, Zach Cherry, Aimee Mullins, and Amy Irving.
A tense thriller shot entirely with an iPhone, Steven Soderbergh's Unsane is unique yet strangely satisfying. I honestly wasn't sure what to expect when I walked in to the theater, but one thing was certain, Steven Soderbergh is extremely talented- that is a fact. I knew the film carried with it a vibe that maybe everything isn’t quite what it seems, so I had that in the back of my mind pretty much the entire time, with interesting results might I add. By the end of the film I was a bit conflicted in terms of my overall “takeaways” from what I just experienced, so I figured I’d give it some time to process my thoughts. The biggest thing for me was the unique way in which the film was shot, which as I mentioned before was solely through an iPhone. Interestingly enough, I felt like this creative filming style actually worked quite well. It added tension to moments that may not have seemed quite as tense with a normal filming technique, and allowed for more close-up shots that were also very effective. As a viewer, you feel like you are limited in terms of what you are allowed to see on the screen, so in a way it makes you feel some of the same feelings the main character may be feeling as she is trapped in this behavioral health facility.
This filming technique is the closest thing to a first-person angle where the viewer feels front and center the entire time. And for those of you who have an issue with shaky camera found footage style films, this isn’t that at all so you won’t have an issue. The storyline itself is simple (at least on the surface), yet interesting and definitely keeps you questioning what is going to happen next. I also felt like much of what was going on is left open to interpretation, especially the ending. Although I am hard pressed to label Unsane as one of the more “entertaining” films I’ve seen as of late, it is extremely well done and has many layers. I commend Soderbergh for his willingness to go out on a limb and take a few chances, and if nothing else his vision absolutely hits home. The somber and claustrophobic mood that was created and retained throughout the film was amazing, and a bit unsettling. It made me feel like I was watching something that may have actually happened, or simply very well could happen- and the events unfolding on-screen held significant weight. You feel for this character and you want things to work out for her, but as the film progresses you are forced to question your loyalties.
It is difficult to go too far in depth about the performance of the cast of Unsane as a whole, due to the unique way the film was made. Lead Claire Foy was incredible, that is a fact I can speak to without hesitation. Best known for her role in the television drama series The Crown, which earned her a Golden Globe for Best Actress two years in a row (2017 & 2018), Foy is an English actress that has yet to find her big break when it comes to movies. She did star in the 2017 romantic drama Breathe alongside Andrew Garfield, and even though it was the directorial debut for actor Andy Serkis, the film received a limited release and went relatively unnoticed by mainstream viewers. I hope that after seeing Foy flaunt her talents as a real-deal actress in this film she will begin to get more opportunities because I would love to see her in more movies going forward.
Juno Temple steps into an important supporting role and she is absolutely amazing. I feel like she is the perfect example of an underappreciated actress in Hollywood because most people recognize her but will probably have a difficult time recalling what she has been in without looking over her IMDb filmography. A London, England native, she is extremely talented and has played some very complex roles (if you have a strong stomach, check her out in Killer Joe- definitely worth it), and I honestly feel like she can do it all. Even though she plays the PERFECT crazy girl in Unsane, she is an actress more than capable of being the most talented on the screen, not to mention the sexiest- yeah, I said it. I really enjoyed the role comedic actor Jay Phoroah took on, and even though it was a supporting role he was an integral piece to the success of the film. Dabbling in a ton of different projects over the past five years or so, many viewers will feel like he looks familiar but can’t place him. He has had stints on Saturday Night Live, and also played small roles in Ride Along and Top Five. I thought he had a great on-screen presence and I really enjoyed his character. Veteran actor Joshua Leonard is incredible in his role, and even though you can tell right out of the gate something isn't right about this guy he still keeps you guessing. Interesting side note, Leonard's very first role came in the money making cult classic horror film The Blair Witch Project (1999). I genuinely enjoyed the entire cast and felt like the film did a really good job of “spreading the wealth” sort of speak.
Unsane is unique for a variety of reasons, many of which will more than likely leave viewers split on their thoughts and overall impression of the film. For me it comes down to understanding what a specific film is trying to accomplish, and trying to avoid critiquing it with the same parameters I would use with any other run-of-the mill release (most critics are incapable of this). When I take this approach I am finding it difficult to point out very many flaws or shortcomings. Sure it's unorthodox in many ways and certainly doesn’t include the bells and whistles most films do this day and age, but given these facts you have to commend the creativity right? At the end of the day this is yet another impressive Steven Soderbergh film that will keep him in the conversation as one of the better directors out there today. Even though Unsane isn’t necessarily a movie I would consider to have the potential for repeat viewings, (I do need to see it at least once more as I am sure I will notice details I missed the first time around), it is still very much a satisfying experience from a talented director.