“Unsane” proves that just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.
“Unsane” is a psychological thriller that follows Swayer Valentini (Claire Foy), a business woman on the verge of a promotion that wrongfully gets put into an mental institution against her will. Inside, we learn a little more about her past as she believes a doctor in the hospital is actually her long time stalker.
Steven Soderbergh, who’s best known for “Magic Mike” and the Ocean’s Eleven franchise, is the director and cinematographer for this movie and decided to go on a nonconventional route by shooting the entire film on an iPhone 7 Plus.
Soderbergh says that audience members won’t notice this change and he couldn’t be more wrong. The use of an iPhone prevented the film from using creative shots and angles and just made a lot of the shots awkward and flat. There’s very little depth to the images and it comes off more of high-quality security camera footage rather than a cinematic movie. Soderbergh says that this is the future of filmmaking and I pray that he’s wrong about that
The decision also affected the audio and lighting where in some scenes it was so bad that it completely took me out of the movie. The score was also very cartoony at points, except for the ending scene where the music actually helped make the scene that much more creepy.
The overall script is decent at best. Some parts of the movie go a little too far and are very uncomfortable to watch. Sometimes scenes like these are good because they show real-world situations, but there’s absolutely no intellectual or creative payoff to reward the audience for going through all that. By not having that payoff, it makes it seem like the writers are just doing it for entertainment purposes, which some people, especially women watching this film, may find disturbing and unnecessary.
On the bright side, the script does do a great job of keeping the audience paranoid. Like any movie with a similar premise, the film keeps making you frustrated when no one is helping or listening to Swayer when she’s in need. It also does a good job with making you question in the back of your head if she’s really telling the truth or if she’s actually insane, however, it does reveal the answer to this a little too early.
Some of the acting is great. Foy does a great job, for the most part, making you truly feel Swayer’s pain. But she does have trouble keeping her American accent for a lot of the movie and it’s very noticeable.
The biggest standout in this film is Jay Pharaoh, who’s best known for his President Obama impressions on Saturday Night Live. Pharaoh plays a fellow patient in the asylum that befriends Sawyer, but might have ulterior motives. Pharaoh is incredibly charming and likable here and isn’t what you would expect from an SNL vet. Besides Pharaoh and Foy, there aren’t really any other great actors. Everyone else is either decent or downright awful.
The overall idea of the film is great, but the writing and decision to use an iPhone for filming was a poor choice. A different director, a few changes to the script and minor casting changes could’ve made this movie a whole lot better.