For people that have never been a patient at a hospital, the idea of surrounding yourself to these places can be downright scary. A lot of that steams from the fact that your there to recover from whatever medical episode your suffering from and that your trusting yourselves to people that are there to care for you. While it's supposed to be comforting, the idea that these doctors and nurses and even other patients will turn on you in an isolated environment can seem horrifying. I can admit that I too have a fear of hospitals, given to memories I've acquired at a young age from my only stay.
Naturally, thrillers and horror stories of hospitals is nothing new. In fact, one of my favorite movies is One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, which explores how society sees and defines "insanity". When I heard that Steven Soderbergh was going to tell his own story, I was excited. I became more curious when I heard that this was all being shot on an IPhone. I like filmmakers that continue to explore the craft even when they become famous. Guys like him, James Cameron and Robert Rodriguez are your filmmakers "filmmaker". Let's see if this pays off in Unsane.
A young woman Sawyer Valintini (played by Claire Foy) is trying to get her life in motion with a job, apartment and social life. But she had been the recent victim of a stalker. This man, David Strine (played by Joshua Leonard) had known her through a hospice service she was volunteering for and remains determined to be with her. To try and get some peace of mind, Sawyer goes to see an therapist and agrees to sign up for a "behavioral program". It's not until she's lead to a room and changed into a hospital gown in which she realizes she had signed herself to be involuntary committed.
Her attempts to show she's not crazy are ignored by the nurses, doctors, and patients. Even when she gets in contact with her mother Angela (played by Amy Irving) don't help as the police and lawyers reveal little they can do until Sawyer runs through her seven day contract. To make matters worse, when she's receiving her medication, she sees' that the staff member dispensing it is her stalker David. Again, her complaints do little as she realizes she'll have to outwit him, the doctors and other patients if she want's to make it out safely.
As far as I'm concerned, Unsane is Steven Soderbergh's example of a fun B movie. A similar movie, Shutter Island, had a lot of psychological exploration on what was real and what wasn't. Unsane doesn't offer much surprise, but is still an entertaining thriller of trying to survive. A lot of that is on Claire Foy, who carries the burden of someone with a dark past on her shoulders, which puts her character into a deeper hole when trying to climb out. She's remains consistently interesting and makes us want to see just how she'll confront her demons.
As for how the film is shot, I'll admit that I've seen more cinematic-looking movies that were made with IPhones. Soderbergh is a fascinating artist who is clearly always trying. The experiment works fine enough for the sake of the films story. Because it's clear he's shooting on location and is allowing for the lighting to remain (mostly) natural, it gives off a feeling of a documentary being shot in secret. Does this mean he should switch to IPhones? Perhaps if he can learn to better craft his images for a non-thriller, maybe. But knowing him, that's rarely a guarantee.
Like I said before, Unsane doesn't try to blur the lines of sanity that often. Though this could have been a deeper exploration into this young woman's mind, the script instead makes this a story of confronting a stalker and unfair hospital practices. Because of that, you have to go in knowing that this was made to be entertaining rather complex. I think that a lot of people will end up overlooking the IPhone cinematography in favor of getting sucked into this thriller. I did, and it's remarkable to see that a director isn't afraid to go this small.
I’ll give this four IPhone lenses out of five. Unsane was fun; just simple thrilling fun. This is proof that if your actor is strong enough, they can carry any kind of project, even it was made with one dollar instead of a hundred million.