Unsane – Movie Review – An engrossing, claustrophobic thriller.

Unsane follows a young woman named Sawyer (Claire Foy) who is involuntarily committed to a mental institution, where she is confronted with her greatest fear – But is the source of her fear real? or is it a product of hero own paranoia and delusion?

I’m going to start off by talking about the method in which this film was shot because it’s fairly experimental. The entire film was shot on an iPhone 7 Plus, now you’d probably be inclined to think the purpose for this, is for it to just be a marketing tactic or a gimmick. It’s not the first feature film to be shot on a phone and distributed to cinemas, but it’s the first that I am aware of to be shot by a director as prolific as Steven Soderbergh. I can confidently say having seen the film that this isn’t a gimmick and it actually helps add to the quality of the film. I found Soderbergh’s direction and cinematography to be very immersive and impressive. The use of the iPhone camera and how he utilises it helps sustain a constant sense of invasiveness and unease, which fits perfectly with the films depiction of a woman being trapped against her will in a mental institution. It seems like the film was shot using just natural light and even if it wasn’t, it’s clear that they didn’t shoot it with the level of artificial lighting a film production would usually have. The benefit of this, is it contributes to making everything you see feel realistic and the opposite of fiction. Characters faces are often obscured by natural shadows and it’s things like this that make the footage seem so authentic, as if it were found footage. The smaller aspect ratio of the presentation is something you will immediately notice, but I got used to it very quickly.

The first ten minutes are slow, but once the film gets going and finds it’s rhythm, It quickly becomes very intriguing and interesting. I never found myself bored at any stage and I certainly didn’t expect this film to keep me as enthralled as it did. Claire Foy is fantastic in this role, she shown a wide range of emotions from fear to anger, to paranoia and uncertainty. She was always interesting to watch and it’s her performance that will really get you caught in a whirlwind of trying to decide for yourself, whether you think she’s losing her mind or not. It’s this element of the script and the performance that kept me so invested through out, I was compelled to find out what was truly occurring as this narrative unfolds. The supporting cast were great too, Juno Temple portrays a patient in the institution who clearly has a vulnerable mind, seeing her perform opposite Claire was always captivating as both characters often clash. Jay Pharoah portrays a another patient who Sawyer ends up befriending. Their chemistry and building friendship is something that I found myself surprisingly invested in.

I can’t really explore why I found the story to be so effective and engrossing, because you are better off watching the film knowing as little about the story as possible. What I can say is the narrative escalates at a steady pace and becomes rather twisted but in a restrained manner. It successfully made me question some of the things that were occurring which is great, because that meant the uncertainty Sawyer was experiencing was something the film makes the audience feel too. As for the musical score, there isn’t always a score playing throughout the scenes but when there is, it was highly effective at heightening the unnerving situations depicted on screen.

The film is fairly solid in all honesty, the only thing that I think could’ve improved it a little more, was if it didn’t skip over a few key things in the conclusion. I would’ve liked to see a little more of what happened, before the point in which the film decides to cut away during the climax. What comes after that moment is great, the final minutes of the film were unexpected but upon reflection work very well as an ending point for this film.

If you couldn’t tell already, I was pleasantly surprised by Unsane. It’s an intriguing psychological thriller that has a fantastic central performance from Claire Foy at it’s core. The direction and cinematography contribute to crafting a tight and claustrophobic film that is one of the first true surprises of 2018.


(4 Stars out of 5)


Unsane – Starring Claire Foy, Jay Pharoah, Juno Temple and Joshua Leonard.

Directed by Steven Soderbergh.

Now showing in cinemas.

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