Unsane is a nifty little movie, a cheeky, intelligent thriller shot in secret on an iPhone and slipped into theaters in the space of a few months. That’s not to say that it’s anything other than another of Steven Soderbergh’s genre-infused larks. Claire Foy stars as Sawyer Valentini, a troubled young woman who finds herself involuntarily committed to a mental hospital, where she discovers that one of the nurses is the creep (Joshua Leonard) who previously stalked and threatened her. Or is it all in her mind? Dun dun dun! As seemingly scary as the whole scenario is, Soderbergh executes Unsane with a bit of a shit-eating grin. He’s seen this sort of movie a dozen times, and he assumes you have too, but there’s a typically skilled balance of novelty and simple craft here that keeps things humming.
Unsane isn’t really interested in being timely or important so much as it is in straight up rattling you.
On the other hand, despite the obvious formal control, the iPhone 7 image sticks out badly. Frankly the whole movie feels like, well, like it was shot on someone’s phone. It’s fun to watch Soderbergh execute trick shots and wheelchair dollys with minimal tech, but it’s an aesthetic choice entirely unmotivated by the material, done mostly because he felt like it. Still, that scrappy impulse thankfully overshadows anything weighty that might have worked its way into the script. For-profit healthcare remodeled as nationwide capitalist gaslighting is probably the main topic at hand here, as are the ways in which trauma and abuse survivors are marginalized, and there’s even a detour about multiple forms of consent (pun intended, you’ll see). But Unsane isn’t really interested in being timely or important so much as it is in straight up rattling you, which it does pretty well.