Unsane review: Steven Soderbergh whips out his mobile to shoot this unsettling horror-thriller featuring a hugely impressive Claire Foy, Juno Temple and Josh Leonard.
Unsane review by Paul Heath.
Steven Soderbergh returns with a new experimental thriller, shot in just two weeks, entirely on his iPhone. Unsane is a, 90-minute thriller which intrigues as well as grips from the off and refuses to give up until the very end credits.
It’s quite difficult to review this film without spilling some minor spoilers in terms of the set-up, but I shall do my best to keep this brief.
We meet Claire Foy’s interestingly named Sawyer Valentin – don’t worry, the name’s origins are explained in the opening third – a young eoman working a desk job in Pennsylvania, hundreds of miles from her home town of Boston. She’s having a tense old time at work, her boss probably cracking onto her, and is still wrestling with some issues from back home, so seeks some therapy at a nearby therapy unit. Once there, she finds herself involuntarily institutionalised. Over the coming days, Sawyer relives her past back in Boston when a stalker re-enters her life. The big question is if this immediate threat is real, or all in her head.
That’s as brief I can make it without spoiling too much as Soderbergh’s impressive new film is best experienced as cold as possible. The twisty, unnervng story is well staged, the striking screenplay by James Greer and Jonathan Bernstein keeping the viewer guessing all the way through. The iPhone thing, far from a gimmick, adds to the experience, the restrictive technical ability enhancing the experience. After the first few scenes you forget that it is shot on the mobile device and become completely absorbed in the narrative.
Foy is far from the pristine Queen we see in The Crown and is utterly convincing as the troubled singleton who may or may not be losing her mind. There’s also great support The Blair Witch Project star Joshua Leonard who plays David Strine – or is it George Shaw (?) – and also the hugely talented Juno Temple, once again nearly stealing the show with her impressive acting chops.
Related: Berlin Syndrome review
While the performances are good, it’s Soderbergh’s unrelenting, intense direction and the rather nasty, brutal screenplay which really grabs your attention, particularly during its shocking climax. Definitely more in the horror realm than expected, Unsane does serve up from some genre clichés, and while some plot holes seem to be tied up towards the end, as the action plays out you can’t help but constantly keep questioning the narrative, which is obviously its intention.
There are a couple of visual clues, obviously put in to be returned to later which stand out like a sore thumb, but as you’re so absorbed in it all, these brief issues can be instantly forgiven.
With surprises lurking around every corner – there’s a crowd-pleasing occurrence half way which will definitely raise a titter from all to acknowledge its presence – Unsane is one of the most edge-of-your-seat, truly intense pieces of genre cinema we’ve seen in 2018 so far.
Absolutely terrifying, gripping, edge of your seat stuff, and I loved every nail-biting moment of it.
Unsane review by Paul Heath, February 2018.
Unsane was reviewed at the 2018 Berlin International Film Festival. It will be released in the UK on 23rd March 2018.