Unsane - 2018
Director(s): Steven Soderbergh
Writer(s): Jonathan Bernstein and James Greer
Cinematography by: Steven Soderbergh
Editor(s): Steven Soderbergh
Cast: Clara Foy, Joshua Leonard, Jay Pharoah and Juno Temple
Synopsis: A young woman is involuntarily committed to a mental institution, where she is confronted by her greatest fear--but is it real or a product of her delusion?
I enjoy a good horror thriller. I particularly like a thriller where you can’t fully trust everything the protagonist sees, says or remembers. A good thriller will keep the audience in the dark long enough that the pay-off is either a surprise or it was one of ten scenarios you ran in your head. Unsane makes you think you are going to watch a movie that will take you along for a thrill ride. It doesn’t tell you if it’s “real” or not fairly quickly. You are introduced to Sawyer, played extremely well by Claire Foy, and you learn of her past dealing with a stalker, and then the movie tells us what’s happening. No suspense. No thrill.
The main problem I have with this fact is that after it told me what is happening, the movie let me realize way too early in the runtime how impossible this plot line is. If the movie took you by the hand and slowly guided you to the reveal, I would’ve enjoyed the experience more even if I still would’ve called BS after the movie ended. I was just sitting there watching events unfold that just didn’t make sense and it took me completely out of the movie.
Steven Soderbergh is an incredible director. He has done everything from funny heist movies (Ocean’s Trilogy), crime-drama-thrillers (Traffic, Side Effects), biographical character studies (Che, Erin Brockovich, Behind the Candelabra), romance (Out of Sight) and even a dark stripper character study (Magic Mike). Butuntil now, one genre he has never ventured onto was horror, and I don’t think we got his best effort. It felt like he was bored and took the most generic script he could find. He didn’t care that the main protagonist made stupid decision after stupid decision. He didn’t care about the huge plot holes, or how the movie ends up coming across as an unintentional comedy. He just thought to himself “I wonder if I can pull this off using only an iPhone”. This movie is a bored, talented director looking for something to motivate him again. I’m still a fan, but this is the worst Soderbergh movie I have seen.
Let’s talk about the cinematography or lack thereof. Like I said above, Soderbergh shot this movie on an iPhone. This isn’t the first movie shot on an iPhone and it won’t be the last. But in the past, for the most part, the choice of shooting on an iPhone was due to fact that they didn’t have a budget to work with. Soderbergh can get a good budget for a horror-thriller from close to any studio, so why the iPhone? At times, it makes sense because it gives the movie a touristic aspect that is a bit unnerving. But most of the time in this film your eyes are just adjusting to a video quality you’re used to seeing on your phone. The shot compilation was boring and the color schemes were ugly. The movie is just visually uninteresting.
The acting by our lead is great. Claire Foy gave it her all as she is the anchor of the entire movie. Her character is flawed, impulsive and a bit crazy, and her performance sells it, even if she is making dumb mistake after dumb mistake. She is great in the series The Crown and I hope she finds success in the future at the box office. Joshua Leonard is hit and miss. There are scenes in which I completely bought his performance and there are scenes that he looks like he is fake crying so his mom will buy him a toy. Juno Temple rented every movie where there is a crazy person in an institution and imitated them. And Jay Pharoah was there. He is in the movie and says words.
Unsane is an uninteresting, unmotivated, uneventful movie. I was shocked at how uninspired Soderbergh felt through this project. I’m unaware of any other movie from his resume that comes across so unoriginal and boring. Like I said above, I’m still a fan and I would go see any other project he puts out, but this movie is simply not up to the standards he has set for himself. Soderbergh’s potential comeback to form is why I love movies.
Unsane is currently playing in theaters. I can’t unwatch it. You shouldn’t watch it.
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