Monday, April 23, 2018

Unsane (2018)

The latest from Steven Soderbergh (wait, I thought he retired?) is something of a stunt movie, shot entirely on an iPhone—shot by Soderbergh, in fact. As with many of his pictures, he not only directed but also shot and edited. The tale this movie has to tell is on the order of a paranoid thriller, shading over into horror, that is so by the numbers it verges on comic. Giving Soderbergh the benefit of the doubt, I think it may be intended to be taken that way, as slightly funny. Nervous young Sawyer Valentini (Claire Foy) is a professional woman who works in an upscale if claustrophobic office as a data analyst. Troubled, seeking psychotherapy, she slips into the hold of a treatment center that is operating a scam on insurance companies. The treatment center's screening process is set up to find pretexts to hold people legally. The therapeutic stay is then extended using every excuse, especially when a victim acts out, and the whole thing keeps going until the insurance money is cut off. Back in the ward, it's a random smorgasbord of drug addicts, other victims, and maybe even some mentally ill. They all have a bed on the ward but there is no evident organization or separation by pathology or even gender. They don't even have privacy curtains around their beds. They are monitored by camera but a lot can happen. So all that is unlikely right there but so was Shock Corridor, whose ghost tepidly haunts the look and feel of some of these scenes. But there's more. On top of that Sawyer has a stalker—it's the reason she moved away from Boston, as we learn when her backstory begins to unfold—and on top of that the stalker is working at the treatment center now. And on top of that—well, you get the idea. Unsane goes on overtopping itself for some time with little regard for likelihood—in general it's best to not think much about these plot developments. Unsane gets started quickly, and moves along at such a good clip, that the gaping plot holes are only marginally distracting. I've got enough of my own paranoia that I can be a sucker for a story like this and I was quickly on Sawyer's side and pulling for her all the way. If you can accept the cat and mouse game at face value, or if you just like the way Soderbergh works, you'll probably get along pretty well with Unsane. Just don't expect to believe a thing you see.

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