Unsane (2018)

  • Time: 98 min
  • Genre: Horror | Thriller
  • Director: Steven Soderbergh
  • Cast: Claire Foy, Juno Temple, Aimee Mullins


A young woman is involuntarily committed to a mental institution, where she is confronted by her greatest fear–but is it real or a product of her delusion?


  • When I think of maverick directors, Richard Linklater, Robert Rodriquez, and Steven Soderbergh always come to mind. 2018’s Unsane (my latest review) has Soderbergh shooting his entire film with an iPhone 7 Plus. That’s right, an iPhone. Some would call this careless but Stevie boy never misses a beat. The dude can pretty much do anything for he is a total guerrilla.

    Now I read somewhere that Soderbergh had retired as a filmmaker. Yeah whatever. He just couldn’t stay away could he. His Unsane is a motion picture that will keep you enthralled and sock in the throat at the same time.

    Unsane is a trademark or better yet a benchmark of all things Steven Soderbergh (minus any sighting of Channing Tatum). It’s occasionally flashy yet somber. It’s effective without harboring a huge budget. Its got a look that is equal parts dark, hazy, and fading. Its got a mild-mannered Matt Damon (in a cameo no less). Finally, it has one of those striking soundtrack scores courtesy of Thomas Newman.

    Unsane while released under the radar, is an excellent side companion to Soderbergh’s 2013 masterpiece, Side Effects (another foray into female psychiatric illness). Note to Steven: Please don’t think about retiring again. You’re a revolutionary and a cinematic badass.

    Anyway, Unsane is about a thirty-something woman who involuntarily checks herself into a mental institution. She gets tricked I suppose or straight-up bamboozled. To make matters worse, she has a supposed stalker from two years ago who works at the same darn institution. There’s more to the story so I’m not gonna give it away. All I’m gonna say is that Unsane starts out as an incensed drama only to turn into an upsetting and interminable thriller.

    Steven Soderbergh goes for broke as he makes his audience have feelings of nil hope, misunderstood rage, and gnawing chimera. His Unsane is a violent incubus, directed with numerous close-ups, low camera angles, and featuring powerful performances by its leads (Joshua Leonard and Claire Foy). Soderbergh, relegated to small scale trim while pushing the independent envelope, doesn’t want you to awaken from his sprawling nightmare on screen. He has fashioned one of the best films of this year. Rating: 3 and a half stars.

    Rating: 3.5 out of 4 stars

    Check out other reviews on my blog: http://www.viewsonfilm.com

  • Reportedly shot in just over a week using an iPhone 7 Plus in 4K, Steven Soderbergh’s Unsane is an effective potboiler that blends the B-movie pulp of Samuel Fuller with the psychological lurchings of Sixties-era Roman Polanski. It also serves as a showcase for Claire Foy, bridging the gap between her breakthrough role as young Queen Elizabeth II on the Netflix series The Crown and her upcoming turn as Lisbeth Salander in The Girl in the Spider’s Web.

    The film begins with a voiceover of a man rhapsodising about his beloved, but it’s clear from the accompanying image of darkened woods that what is about to unfold is no love story. The beloved in question is Sawyer Valentini (Foy), a businesswoman traumatised by her experience with a man named David (Joshua Leonard), who became obsessed with her after she, volunteering at a hospice, spent time caring for his ailing father. She’s trying to rebuild her life but, after a Tinder date goes terribly awry, she decides to seek some counselling during her lunch break.

    She talks of how changing her email, phone and the time of her lunch hour has become part of her daily existence, how taking out restraining orders, relocating to a new city, and always second-guessing is her new normal. “Rationally, I know my neuroses are colluding with my imagination to manifest my worst fears,” she confides to the counsellor and further shares that she never feels safe and that, yes, she has had suicidal thoughts in the past. After the session, Sawyer is called upon to sign some forms – strictly routine, she’s told – but then she soon realises that, by signing the forms, she has “voluntarily” checked herself into the facility for 24 hours. Those 24 hours turn in one whole week when she has physically agitated encounters not only with the patients, particularly Juno Temple’s tampon-throwing Violet, but with members of the staff, one of whom she believes to be her stalker David now presenting himself as a mild-mannered orderly named George.

    Yet is George really David? Or is Sawyer losing her grip on reality? Unsane teases both possibilities before firmly committing the more predictable option. Tipping its hand arguably too early in the game also further exposes the film’s numerous plot holes and lapses in logic. Despite this, Unsane proves itself a solid genre film, partly because Soderbergh (also serving as cinematographer and editor under the respective aliases of Peter Andrews and Mary Ann Bernard) is too considered a filmmaker to make something truly schlocky, but mostly because of Foy’s fearlessly and committedly abrasive portrayal.

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