Was Steven Soderberg saying he was retiring from directing several years ago just like complete bullshit? Or maybe he retired for a couple of months and realized that he is kidding himself and misses the game? I don’t know, but if he ever talks about retirement again I am not going to believe him. His new film is UNSANE, which has the unique distinction of being completely shot with an iPhone. That’s right, an iPhone. And needless to say, he did a pretty damn good job. The movie is entertaining enough and the iPhone does bring about a claustrophobic feel when it comes to the actual story. Would I say it is one of Soderberg’s greatest films? Hell no. Would I watch it multiple times? Certainly not. But it was a heck of a one time watch, and I could see maybe watching it one more time to study the iPhone camera work that he does.
If you aren’t in the know Unsane stars Netflix’s The Crown’s Claire Foy, who after just moving and receiving good marks at a new job she has gotten, is involuntarily/voluntarily? committed to a mental institution where she thinks a very creepy, icky, weird, disgusting stalker has followed her from Chicago and is now trying to finally have her at said institution. But is he really there, or is it all a figment of her insane imagination. That’s for you to decide. The movie, at the beginning, does a really good job of trying to get you to double back whether you think this is really happening to her or not. If I do have one complaint about the film is that it shows all of its cards wayyyyy too early and should’ve waited another 15 to 20 minutes to let the audience in on the whole story.
But that is only a minor complaint. Even with the reveal, the story flows at a break even pace and doesn’t let the audience even a chance of nodding off or completely fall asleep. The acting too here is why this movie doesn’t just flow into the mediocre abyss of all the other crazy/not crazy wild mind trick films. Claire Foy (I haven’t seen any of The Crown but heard she is extraordinary) is great here too, playing a vulnerable, but ultimately strong and capable young woman that doesn’t know what she has gotten/forced herself into and just wants to escape this epic nightmare of utter lunatic proportions. I do want to shout out here though ex-SNL’s Jay Pharoah, who does an extremely good job as a likable inmate named Nate Hoffman. He had pretty good chemistry with Foy. Oh and the creepy stalker that may or may not be there, is played to utterly icky and cringe worthy brillance by Joshua Leonard.
There is one thing that almost took my out of the movie. A very, very, very, very well known actor/actress makes a very quick and short cameo in this movie, and it almost completely took me out of the movie. I won’t say who it is or what he/she was doing, but if I told you it wouldn’t end up being spoiler worthy at all. It really is a pointless cameo and I think it should’ve been played by a unknown actor/actress and a better result would’ve come from that quick 2-3 minute scene. The fact that the actor/actress was too recognizable, and a Soderberg MVP, took me completely out of the film, as I was trying to guess if he/she had anything to do with what would happen in future events (minor spoiler: No, he/she doesn’t, it really is a pointless cameo, nothing a la Kevin Spacey in Se7en).
The real star of the movie is the iPhone, for which this was shot in its entirety (probably not edited with though). The limitations of the iPhone works for the films advantage when it comes to Claire Foy being in a mental institution with really small rooms and big walls to lose your mind in. I could never really see anything big budget being shot with an iphone, but I do look forward to several films in the future being shot with just this device, but unfortunately instead of good pieces like this, we’ll get the era if iPhone horror schlock (watch, it will happen).
So yeah, I liked Unsane, not enough to buy it, but enough to watch it another time but this time watch the iPhone camera work. The story is interesting yet nothing you really haven’t seen before, and the performances take it out of being lost in the mundane see of endless films that are put out into theaters nowadays. And the cameo may or may not take you out of the film. Some people and critics have said this is better than Get Out. HA! Not by a long shot, but you might be pleasantly surprised that this film does work. It is an interesting watch to be sure.