Unsane: A Soderberghian Thriller


Say what you will but Steven Soderbergh is a phenomenal director and like any director, he’s had his fair share of hits and misses. After a short break, Soderbergh follows up his comedy-drama, Logan Lucky, with a psychological thriller: Unsane. Unsane is the story of Sawyer Valentini, a victim of a bad case of stalking, who inadvertently signs herself into a mental institution and amidst her helplessness and her greatest fears coming true, what follows is a question that lingers throughout the movie: Is she really insane?


Before delving into if its worth a watch, I have to tell this up front: I haven’t watched The Crown but after seeing Claire Foy’s performance in Unsane it’s safe to assume that she deserved all those awards she bagged for The Crown. She’s just absolutely captivating in Unsane and that’s that!

While Unsane has been showing up on a lot of movie streaming sites labeled under the ‘Horror’ genre, it’s more of a psychological thriller which constantly makes us question if the protagonist is actually crazy or not. Even the marketing and promo materials come slapped on with a ‘Is She or Isn’t She?’ tagline. Plot-wise there’s little to cling on to, but its the general idea of a sane person stuck in an asylum while their worst fears come true. How would it feel had it been you in her place? What ensues is something very similar to a Twilight Zone episode. Add to that Claire Foy makes it worth seeing the fate of Sawyer.


Despite being a solid psychological thriller, Unsane is making more news because it’s completely shot on an iPhone. With an iPhone and a mix of lenses, Soderbergh made it look more like a documentary than mainstream cinema. Yes, the visuals definitely take a bit of time to get used to but you’ll be drawn more into Claire Foy’s performance and once that’s done you will slowly sink into the tone and feel he’s created which kind of feels apt. It’s arguable if he should have used conventional film equipment but its just Soderbergh doing Soderbergh things.

There are also a few stand out performances in Unsane. A seemingly innocent looking Joshua Leonard, known for playing one of the leads in the Blair Witch Project, makes for a brilliant antagonist in Unsane. The same goes for Jay Pharoah who plays an inmate and the only person Sawyer befriends in the institution. Juno Temple, convincingly enough, plays another inmate who might actually be crazy. There’s also a not-so-surprising cameo included. Academy Award nominee Thomas Newman, in a first-time collaboration with Soderbergh plays with minimal background score here but man it stands out and how.


Unsane is by no means Soderbergh’s best or let’s just say it doesn’t even come close to any of his best works. But what Unsane is, is a well acted, well-directed thriller which keeps you glued to your seats despite its unconventionally shot visuals and weird camera angles. Watch it for Claire Foy’s masterful performances and a mildly disturbing narrative.


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