Unsane received a lot of attention before release because director Steven Soderbergh filmed the entire movie using an iPhone 7 Plus. So, let’s address that elephant in the room to begin—yes, it is noticeable. It’s especially noticeable early in the film when it simply doesn’t “look” like other films you’re used to seeing. That being said, that distracting very quickly dissipated for me and likely will for anyone who appreciates everything else this film has to offer.
Claire Foy stars as Sawyer, a single young woman working in the city that decides to visit a therapist to deal with anxiety issues over a stalker she had. Once her session ends, she finds herself being admitted against her will to a mental hospital. Is she really crazy, or is this all as horrific as it seems on the surface? When her stalker shows up, we’re left to wonder is he real or, again, is she really maybe mentally unwell? The film touches on some very real concerns about mental health policy in this country, but unfortunately that is mostly brushed aside to focus on the thriller aspects, instead. And there, it does succeed in spades.
This is a masterclass in filmmaking from Soderbergh and Foy. Behind the iPhone Soderbergh shows that equipment doesn’t make the director. His film is taut and thrilling in all the right ways. There’s also a sort of minimalist feeling to it all brought on by the phone use. There are times this looks and feels like the film school grads of the 1970s such as John Carpenter with the first Halloween. Meanwhile, in front of the camera, this entire film rests of Foy’s shoulders. If we don’t believe her performance or for a second feel we’re being manipulated the whole thing crumbles, but thankfully there’s an earnest in her performance. When she’s scared, we feel scared for her. When she cries, we feel true empathy. When she screams, well, we can’t help but want to scream along. There’s perhaps a more interesting film really digging into the mental health services in this country, but as is this is a perfectly entertaining thriller.