Claire Foy unveiled Unsane at the 68th Berlinale Film Festival in February. With Steven Soderbergh at the helm, Unsane was hotly anticipated by critics and fans alike especially with the surprise hit that was Logan Lucky last year. And much like Logan Lucky, Soderbergh nails expectations with the turnout of Unsane – delivering an original thriller with satisfying undertones.
Soderbergh XXL: As a director, Steven Soderbergh doesn’t shy away from experimenting with alternative filming methods and genres – his catalogue of films ranges from the Ocean’s franchise to Magic Mike. Upping the ante this time around with horror/ thriller hybrid Unsane which shifts (sometimes jarringly) with physically distressing scenes to classic Soderbergh comedy. These tonal shifts (which are not particularly welcome) casually relieves the audience of tension whilst injecting them with unsettling themes. And this is somewhat ‘interesting’ as it forces the audience to question their own sanity as well as lead actress Sawyer’s.
Her Royal Highness: Leading lady Claire Foy (mostly known for her top-notch portrayal of Queen Elizabeth II in Netflix’s The Crown) seamlessly adapts to an American accent and convincingly conveys that her characters were raised in the US. Furthermore, her handling of the script was perfect as the audience is in a constant “is she, isn’t she” frame of mind and consistently questioning her sanity. Joshua Leonard, who plays the antagonist of the film, is also excellent as the villain. His performance also forces the audience to believe the accusations about his character.
An Apple a Day… Following famous features such as Tangerine and Night Fishing, Soderbergh shot the entirety of Unsane using 4K capture on an iPhone. Changing only the lenses, it is virtually indistinguishable from high-end RED cameras that Soderbergh typically uses. That being said, sequences shot in the dark are often too dark with visible pixels – there is an attempt to cover this up with overly blue color grading but doesn’t quite hit the mark. Seeing the increased availability and cheaper pricing, it wouldn’t be surprising if more smartphone shot films make a future appearance.
Sadly Soderbergh: As original as many of Unsane’s quirks, the pacing of the narrative was a real issue for me. The film cuts in a jarring fashion leaving the audience unsettled – which is probably the expected outcome but not an enjoyable one. And as much as the film's themes of stalking and paranoia are interesting, it didn’t appeal to me in a way that I am excited to rewatch. But I do hope Soderbergh uses his influence on indie filmmakers to use smartphones to bring their ideas to the big screen.