Director: Steven Soderbergh
Writer: Johnathan Bernstein, Steve Greer
Run Time: 97 Minutes
Shot entirely on a an Apple iPhone 7, Steven Soderbergh's newest thriller 'Unsane' was shot entirely in secret. Coming out of retirement to make 'Logan Lucky' of which you can read my review of that film here, nobody knew that Soderbergh was going to make this film until it premiered at the Berlin International Film Festival a few months ago. Being that it was shot entirely on an iPhone, you almost don't even notice. As there is still sound design, lighting, use of a few paid-for apps, and a director of photography - you couldn't just go out and make this. The saying goes: "can have Jimi Hendrix's guitar, but not be Jimi Hendrix." ...or have a budget, distribution, access to a crew, extras, etc. Although, it is kind of neat knowing the potential of the thing in your pocket that most of us are just using to tweet or catch Pokemon.
Unsane is an interesting film that has some genuine Hitchcock-esque moments of intrigue for the audience.The use of the iPhone 7 gives the film this grainy sort of digital grit to the film. It makes it feel dirtier. In addition, the tight shots of the iPhone and even the smaller aspect ratio make the film feel more claustrophobic, further adding to that Hitchcock-like tension and suspense. You'll have no idea, at first, whether or not the main character, Sawyer Valentini (Claire Foy), is actually crazy.Is what she is saying actually true? As you watch you will start to develop your own theories as to what is actually happening.
Because in Sawyer's world, things seem to escalate pretty quickly and somewhat randomly at first. That is intentional and creates a thread of doubt that she could be actually losing her mind. Sawyer goes from about to have a one night stand in one moment, to then having a panic attack in the next. She checks in with a clinical psychologist the next day and before she can say "you made a mistake" she is being carted off by nurses to a room with the rest of the crazies. In this sequence of events, you, as an audience member, can really relate to - finding yourself in the wrong place at the wrong time all because of a simple miscommunication.
Due to Claire Foy's excellent performance, in addition to those of the supporting cast, you really get sucked into this world. Was Sawyer actually crazy or are the medications making her this way? You'll think to yourself: "I'd respond that way. Wouldn't anybody? That woman just threw her goddamn used tampon at me! Get me outta here! I'm not supposed to be here!" In these moments, Soderbergh really knows how to play up the audience's empathy. However, he takes a story telling sidebar to give some commentary about how corrupt the healthcare system is in the U.S. I mean it's not like a VICE article, and it doesn't distract from the story too much, but it does add an extra layer of dread and depression that makes you think about things outside of cineplex and reflect on: is there any corporation out there that isn't corrupt?
My main complaint about this film is that it shows it's hand about half-way through the film and definitely gives you an answer to whether or not Sawyer is actually crazy. This makes the second half of the film way less intriguing. This also creates glaring plot holes.
Moreover, what is more important than the actual plot of the film is the commentary that is being made about the plights of women not being listened to. This film would be entirely different if the events that were unfolding happened to a man. Part of film's villainy is the creation, use of, and making excuses for a system that perpetuates terrible behavior.
-You see it on the news all the time, companies not coming out with the truth because it will create a PR nightmare and they would never do business again. This kind of stuff especially happens in state hospitals and nursing homes where the patients get abused, molested, or assaulted and nothing is done about it.
In closing, 'Unsane' is an interesting and entertaining film. I think that the use of the iPhone 7 to shoot the film helps it hit closer to home than it would otherwise, as if you are seeing this on some viral video, or smuggled in cell phone. The fantastic performances by the cast help it sail past any glaring plot holes or hiccups that would have been more noticeable otherwise. I hope that Soderbergh keeps teasing his retirement, but then keeps coming back and making movies. He's like the Jay-Z of movie directors.