The newest movie from director Steven Soderbergh looked different to me. I had no idea why but there was something noticeable about it. It was only after I finished watching the film that I found out the reason for it.
Soderbergh filmed the movie on an iPhone. An iPhone 7 Plus to be specific.
Oh. That’s why.
The first part of the film was noticeable, but soon, I had adjusted to the differences and was engaged in the story being told to me.
Sawyer (Claire Foy) has just moved away from her home in Boston with little reason and took a job across country, where her stock was rising. The problem was that there was clearly something from her past that was bothering her, preventing her from moving on with her life.
Sawyer does what many people might do… approach a therapist allowing herself a chance to talk about the issues of her life. In fact, Sawyer felt good about the session and wanted to schedule something for later in the week. Then, the therapist asked her to fill out some paperwork and wait in the lobby. Before Sawyer knew what had happened, she was being admitted involuntarily to the mental institution in an insurance scam.
Bu that was not yet the worst part. Sawyer began seeing her stalker David (Joshua Leonard) working at the institution as an orderly named George and no matter who she tried to talk to, no one believed her.
Was Sawyer facing imminent peril or was this all in her own mind? There were parts of the movie that played up the possibility that Sawyer was actually crazy and all of this was in her head. That aspect of the film did not last long enough, as I would have liked to seen it played out more. The fact is that this plotline was dropped rather quickly, although there were still minor hints throughout. Had they tried to swerve at the end, it would have been troubling.
I must say, though, I was not a huge fan of the way the film did end. Without spoiling anything, I would have preferred a different ending than what we got.
However, that did not ruin the film. As soon as I adjusted to the different camera work until that ending, I was thoroughly engaged and intrigued by the film. Claire Foy was remarkable as Sawyer. She brought the character full circle and really played the fear and the pain that the character was feeling while acting out in ways (some violent) that kept us guessing whether or not she was truthfully sane. Foy is easily the strongest pert of Unsane.
I also really enjoyed Jay Pharoah as Nate, a fellow inmate at the mental institution who makes friends with her and tries to help her along.
Joshua Leonard was another strong performance as David/George. As I said earlier, I think the film may have dropped the George reveal too early, but Leonard brought some real gravitas to the part. Leonard who was in the original Blair Witch Project has had a solid career since in these types of films. And honestly, he did a fantastic job of making me hate this character he played and making me hope that he would get what was coming to him.
The filming on the iPhone 7 was an interesting choice by Soderbergh because it was effective in creating a certain mood for the audience. It allowed some deeply claustrophobic shots and some atypical shots. Once I adjusted to the manner in which the film was going to look, I was able to marvel at what could be done with technology today. Soderbergh was able to take us right inside the mind of Sawyer and show us how she was dealing with these moments of insanity, whether around her or inside her own head.
Though there are some issues with the story and some plot contrivances that were stretches, I enjoyed this movie very much. An excellent performance from Claire Foy anchored the film and helped cover any problems up. A very solid psychological thriller with horror elements, Unsane is a tense and thrilling ride.