Unsane Review: Soderbergh crafts an inventive chiller


Shot entirely with iPhone 7s, Unsane is a uniquely crafted thriller that could only come from the mind of Steven Soderbergh.

From Traffic to Logan LuckySteven Soderbergh has crafted a remarkably diverse resume as a director. More impressively, he has become an innovator in the financing and releasing of his films, changing the Hollywood system by independently financing mainstream releases and having complete creative control

Soderbergh’s innovative streak continues with Unsane, which is a new thriller crafted with iPhone 7s. The film follows Sawyer, who recently has started anew after escaping her stalker. When she visits a doctor to discuss her problems, she is locked into a mental ward with no way out. Her worst nightmares come to life when Sawyer sees her stalker, but she isn’t quite sure if he’s real or not.

Fans of Soderbergh may be slightly letdown by the film’s lack of narrative ambition, but Unsane is a tight and well-crafted thriller that effective plays homage to the pulpy thrillers of yesteryear.

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Everyone’s question going into the film is does Soderbergh pull of the iPhone filming or is it a gimmick? I would say he pulls it off in spades, as shooting the film with iPhones gives it a huge benefit. The uncomfortably close way the movie is framed and filmed makes the setting feel claustrophobic and eerie. The audience is put in the hospital alongside Sawyer, feeling her anxiety and uncertainty as she tries desperately to get out.

Soderbergh is a masterful craftsman when it comes to genre movies, as he’s proven previously with Side Effects his ability to manage tone. When making a B-movie, its easy for a director to embellish the comedic aspect to make the homage more obvious. While there are some funny moments here (especially a cameo from a certain star), the comedy never undercuts the tension involving Sawyer, creating an experience that offers both chills and laughs.

Credit to star Claire Foy for carrying much of this film on her shoulders. As Sawyer, she delivers a performance that has more nuance than just yelling to get out. We feel her insecurities manifest as she begins to question her own reality. Foy’s naturalistic performance makes the film and its premise feel even more grounded.

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Where Unsane left me unsatisfied is the narrative. The first hour is engaging and constantly left me questioning what exactly was going to happen. It’s disappointing however that the film picked the safest and most predictable possible ending to its narrative. I get it’s an homage to similar thrillers, but that doesn’t mean there shouldn’t be any narrative innovation.

Despite that, Unsane is an effectively eerie thriller that is brought to life with some truly inventive filmmaking from Soderbergh. Certainly won’t go down as one of his best, but it’s yet another great effort from one of the industry’s best.

Unsane is now playing in theaters nationwide.