Movie Reviews

Unsane – A Decent and Uniquely Shot Thriller

This film decided to do things a little different as director Steven Soderbergh made a unique choice to shoot it with an iPhone. I am curious to see how it will work out.

Synopsis: 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? (IMDB)

Starring: Claire FoyJoshua Leonard, and Jay Pharoah

Writers: Jonathan Bernstein and James Greer

Director: Steven Soderbergh

Rating: 14A (Canada)/R (United States)

Running Time: 97mins

Trailer: 

For showtimes and more, check out Unsane on movietimes.com.

So how would the iPhone affect the way in which the film looked? It is noticeable early on though it was easy to forget as the film went on. The story was a simple one about a woman named Sawyer Valentini (Foy) who inadvertently commits herself to a mental institution. The story also liked to play with the viewer in that it wasn’t clear whether she really was crazy. Sure, she wasn’t a perfect person by any means but she acted as one normally would after finding out that she is trapped inside of a mental institution for an indefinite period of time.

Going back to the way the film was shot, the way the camera was so close to the actors and the action created a palpable sense of claustrophobia and dread throughout the film. Valentini found herself in the institution early on but the story still took a while to get going which doesn’t help when the film is relatively short, clocking in at just over 90 minutes. Not only did she have to deal with the mental institution, she also had to deal with a stalker that had been hounding her for years named David Strine (Leonard). The claustrophobic feel made us feel like we were stalking her. Valentini had mentioned him earlier, however, it wasn’t until he showed up that everything started to come together and the story got more interesting.

The problem with that was that it felt like these two subplots were at odds with each other and it would have been nice if the writers had chosen one or the other. Valentini was somewhat compelling to watch, however, the story tried to make her look crazy in a very contrived way one too many times that it became unbelievable. At least with Strine, we had sort of had someone to hate but the story failed to give us much reason to do so by being vague with his character development and adding him to the situation in a contrived way by putting him in the institution with her. Regardless, Valentini was still an easy character to root for even if it at times it didn’t look like she’d prevail.

Valentini and Strine’s battle was the most entertaining part of the film but it took too much of a backseat to the whole is she or isn’t she crazy subplot until the final thirds of the film. This was where the story slightly fell of the rails as it forgets about the previous two thirds of the film. It was clear that she was going to leave the institution eventually, however, the resolution wasn’t quite as satisfying as it could have been.

Foy as Valentini was the best part of the film and it definitely would not have worked without her. She carried the film with her strong and complex performance of a woman carrying so much on her shoulders. She was compelling to watch through her many frustrations and confusion as the film left it open-ended as to whether or not she really was crazy and she was great at both extremes. Leonard was good as Strine despite his character being underwritten and underused.

Overall, this was a decent thriller whose unique cinematography created a palpable sense of dread and a strong performance by Claire Foy both aided a slightly contrived story.

Score: 7/10

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5 replies »

  1. Oh I had no idea this was shot on an iPhone! I’ll be super alert when I eventually see it. I’m glad it’s decent – I’ve been looking forward to this one 🙂