Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Review of UNSANE: Stalker Stress Supreme

March 28, 2018

The main conceit of this latest film directed by Steven Soderbergh was that it was shot in 4K resolution (4000 pixels horizontally) entirely using an iPhone 7 Plus using an app called FiLMiC Pro. Because there were no bulky cameras used, the whole shoot only took two weeks to finish. This is a big deal because it may change the way films are made in the future. I felt the need to actually catch this in a movie house to see how a video taken by a phone will look like projected on a big screen. 

Sawyer Valentini moved to Philadelphia to live her life over after being stalked by a persistent suitor David Strine in her former Boston home. One day, she sought help for her troubled psyche from the Highland Creek Behavioral Center. However, after signing some forms, she realized that she was being admitted as a patient against her will. To compound her woes, Sawyer saw her old stalker David working in that facility as a pharmacist under the name George Shaw. Was this really happening, or was she just dreaming it all up?

I had never seen the series "The Crown" before, so this is the first time I had seen Claire Foy act. She was thoroughly convincing as Sawyer, in such a way that you do not know if she is really crazy or not. I think she was helped by the crazy, harrowing script written by Jonathan Bernstein and James Greer, with all its exasperating questions which could really drive anyone mad if they were in Sawyer's position. You will understand why the title is purposefully "Unsane" (or "of questionable sanity") rather than "Insane" (or "totally nuts"). I thought this was a sensational performance by Foy, on the same level as Daniel Kaluuya's breakthrough in "Get Out."

Not exactly a diss, but it seemed everyone else in the cast was directed to act like awkward amateur actors in a homemade or student film project. 

As mild-mannered George Shaw, Joshua Leonard, who is still best known as one of the ill-fated filmmakers in "The Blair Witch Project" (Myrick and Sanchez, 1999), kept us guessing if he is really a bad guy or not. Similarly of nebulous nature was Joey Pharoah's portrayal of Nate Hoffman, a helpful fellow patient whom Sawyer befriended. Juno Temple was over-the-top as quarrelsome fellow patient, Violet. Amy Irving (and her unmistakable curls) was delivering her lines in a highly artificial manner as Sawyer's mom Angela. Soderbergh pal Matt Damon surprised us again with yet another cameo appearance.

The whole film had a very low budget and indie vibe to it in terms of its cinematography. There were scenes which were rather dark and seedy looking. This raw look actually helped in making the whole experience watching this film more compelling and disturbing. You will soon forget that an iPhone was used at all and get absorbed into the very effective suspense and drama of the story, as expertly cooked up by the masterful editing and direction of Steven Soderbergh, plot holes notwithstanding. 8/10. 

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