American films

Unsane film review: The Crown’s Claire Foy stars in iPhone thriller from Steven Soderbergh

Foy plays a traumatised bank employee who mistakenly signs up for a 24-hour evaluation at a creepy behavioural centre, with nightmarish results in this claustrophobic, Hitchcock-style thriller

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 20 March, 2018, 7:04pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 20 March, 2018, 7:04pm

4/5 stars

Steven Soderbergh’s most interesting films have often been his smallest: his madcap Schizopolis, his sex worker tale The Girlfriend Experience and his blue-collar murder tale Bubble all spring to mind. You can now add Unsane to that list. Entirely shot on an iPhone, this is a neatly constructed psychiatric ward thriller that bears all the hallmarks of Polanski and Hitchcock at their most playful.

The Crown’s Claire Foy plays Sawyer Valentini, a bank employee who has recently relocated from Boston after a traumatic two years. When she arrives at Highland Creek Behavioral Centre, she is in need of a therapist. But after signing papers without reading them, it dawns on Sawyer that she has committed to a 24-hour evaluation in the institution. Not even her gutsy mother (Amy Irving) can get her out.

Why Steven Soderbergh shot Unsane with an iPhone and is already doing it again with NBA drama out later this year

So begins a Kafka-like nightmare – one that involves insurance company red tape and a creepy nurse (Joshua Leonard) with a special interest in her case. It is claustrophobic, tightly shot and convincingly performed with a cast that also includes a corn row wearing Juno Temple and hospital savvy Jay Pharoah, as fellow patients who either help or hinder Sawyer’s progress.

The iPhone camerawork is not a gimmick, and Soderbergh never lets it become so. The device does its job proficiently, and the visuals are perfectly adequate for a grimy story such as this. Succinct and engrossing, Unsane is that perfect genre picture, much like last year’s Get Out : a thriller that sneaks its wider issues up on you unexpectedly.

Unsane opens on March 22

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