“Unsane” is unreal.
It’s got a woman who may or may not be crazy. It’s got a man who may be a hospital orderly, a stalker, or both. And just when you think it’s going to end — it keeps going, and keeps getting crazier.
Oh, and it was shot on an iPhone.
Actually, that’s probably the least loony thing about Steven Soderbergh’s surprisingly entertaining movie. After prematurely announcing his retirement a few years ago, he had to find ways to get jazzed again.
Making a movie on a cell phone was sure one idea.
Another was diving into high-concept genre pictures, like the heist movie “Logan Lucky.” This time it’s an old-fashioned snake-pit shocker, with creepy patients, creepier doctors, psychedelic drugs and several grisly murders.
Claire Foy, from “The Crown,” stars as Sawyer (channeling Reese Witherspoon for a perfectly perky American accent). A too-frank session with a psychologist gets her committed to the care of Nurse Ratched’s older sister, and put on a steady diet of pills.
The folks in charge, you see, have diagnosed Sawyer as having acutely great insurance. Their prescription? Keep her locked up for as long as her HMO keeps paying.
Inside the institution, Sawyer’s only ally — winningly played by Jay Pharoah — is that other great B-movie character, the undercover reporter. He’s just pretending to need help, he explains, so he can get the scoop. Or is he deluded, too?
Probably not pretending? Juno Temple as a trashy white dreadlocked girl who wants to cut Sawyer up. And squirmy Joshua Leonard acts up as the attendant whose constant attendance may be masking something else.
Sawyer knows she’s got to get out of this place, stat. But who’s going to believe a crazy girl?
Of course, the plot itself is sometimes a little nutty, too. There’s more than one truly unbelievable coincidence. There’s also a very long speech about men and women and sexism that sounds an awful lot like two male screenwriters shouting “#MeToo too!”
“Unsane” is a lot more effective when it gives up trying to be a “Get Out” for gender and just sticks with the scares. The actors are all great. The pace is relentless.
And whether he’s shooting with a giant Panavision rig or an iPhone 7 Plus, Soderbergh still has the best eyes in the business. Wild wide angles, extreme close-ups and oversaturated colors bring us right into the nightmare.
Add a welcome guest appearance by Amy Irving (and a surprise cameo by an old Soderbergh pal), plus some sly nods to “Shock Corridor” and “Alfred Hitchcock Presents,” and you have a movie that’s flawed, but still furiously entertaining.
Looking for a good, weird little thriller? Go ahead, give “Unsane” a try. You’d be crazy not to.
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