Time: 92 Minutes
Claire Foy as Sawyer Valentini
Joshua Leonard as David Strine
Jay Pharoah as Nate Hoffman
Juno Temple as Violet
Aimee Mullins as Ashley Brighterhouse
Amy Irving as Angela Valentini
Director: Steven Soderbergh
Sawyer Valentini (Claire Foy) relocates from Boston to Pennsylvania to escape from the man who’s been stalking her for the last two years. While consulting with a therapist, Valentini unwittingly signs in for a voluntary 24-hour commitment to the Highland Creek Behavioral Center. Her stay at the facility soon gets extended when doctors and nurses begin to question her sanity. Sawyer now believes that one of the staffers is her stalker — and she’ll do whatever it takes to stay alive and fight her way out.
I had been hearing some praise for Unsane for a while. Steven Soderbergh is a great director and with Unsane, in secret he created a thriller entirely filmed with an iPhone. Also, Claire Foy, who has proven herself to be a great actress in The Crown, was cast in the lead role. So naturally I was quite interested in the movie. Unsane is a great thriller, with solid direction from Soderbergh, a simple and contained plot that works and an excellent lead performance from Claire Foy.
Unsane is about an hour and 30 minutes long and that was a good length overall for the movie. It is a simple movie with a straightforward plot but yet it’s quite effective with what its doing. The movie keeps you glued from start to finish. For me at least the movie doesn’t really do anything new plot wise, and it didn’t particularly surprise me immensely, but that’s not necessarily a criticism of the film, as the execution of this plot is more its strong point. From the point that Claire Foy is stuck inside the behavioural centre, most of the film is set just on that location so it feels very contained. For the most part, this movie feels very grounded and set in reality. The only out of place moment was in the third act when the stalker character does something very surprising and implausible and there’s not real logical explanation for how he can do it, except that he’s supernatural or something. Outside of that I don’t really have a real problem about the rest of the plot. The only other out of place moment was a minute long Matt Damon cameo but that was more distracting than anything else.
Claire Foy is the main star of the show and she absolutely kills it here. She displays a lot of range and goes all in when portraying her character. You really feel how she’s feeling as the film progresses as she constantly comes across many issues. We also get to see her character’s issues and her past which show why she acts and reacts the way she does. With this performance and The Crown, Claire Foy has proven herself to be once again a great actress. Foy’s stalker was also played very well by Joshua Leonard, managing to give a constant uncomfortable feeling throughout when he’s on screen. Leonard was in The Blair Witch Project but outside of that has just been in smaller movies, so it’s nice to see him get to show off here. The rest of the cast also do well in their roles but it’s mostly Claire Foy and Joshua Leonard who stand out, particularly Foy.
Of course one of the things about this movie that is most known is that it was shot entirely with an iPhone. The movie feels really self contained, with most of it taking place inside one building, and what happens and what we see feels all the more real. So in a sense, the use of filming with an iPhone does add to the movie. With that said… Unsane didn’t necessarily need to be filmed on an iPhone. It seems like an experiment to see whether it would work. Sure it does add in some ways with a lot of the scenes feeling a little more real but aside from that there wasn’t really much point in doing that for this movie. Also you can still tell that’s it’s filmed on an iPhone, you don’t really forget about it, it’s just that it didn’t matter and wasn’t as distracting (even if it is noticeable at times).
Unsane is a pretty great an effective thriller, and Claire Foy with her performance here looks at being one of the best actresses working today. It’s very simple and straightforward thriller, and isn’t going to rank among the best thrillers of all times, but it’s probably one of Steven Soderbergh’s best films (at least of all the movies I’ve seen from him), and for it’s simple concept, the execution is quite effective. Unsane is definitely worth checking out when you can.