Let’s get something straight right from the start.
Steven Soderbergh is a genius.
Arguably the greatest director working today…or any day for that matter.
I know people will disagree.
Those people are wrong.
Just think about this though, we are talking about a man who has directed this little lot; “Sex, Lies and Videotape”, “The Limey”, “Erin Brockovich”, “Traffic”, “Solaris”, “Bubble”, “The Girlfriend Experience”, “The Informant!”, “Che”, “Haywire”, “Magic Mike”, “Side Effects”, “Behind the Candelabra” and now “Unsane”.
Comedy, drama, biopic, sci-fi, action, horror, romance, tragedy, gangster…he is a director who you cannot place in a box. Despite that his films are unmistakably…his. You could get any hack with a camera to direct a Michael Bay film and you would end up with…exactly the same film. Take Soderbergh out of the equation with any of his films and you would have something very different and very much poorer as a result.
“Unsane” is a very difficult film to write about because almost anything you say about the plot risks giving away crucial elements of the story and ruining the experience. In simple terms the film concerns Sawyer Valentini (Claire Foy) as she starts a new life in a new town following a nasty experience of being stalked. In an effort to rid herself of the demons that plague her life following that she heads to a local medical institution to see a counsellor. Following that visit she finds herself being committed to the institution for seven days. Early on she claims that one of the wardens is, in fact, her stalker. That’s about as much as I can say without ruining things.
What Soderbergh has done is to produce a horror film that references “Misery”, “The Collector” (the John Fowles story), “Halloween” (the soundtrack could have been scored by John Carpenter…in hip-hop mode), “The Shining”, “Cabin in the Woods” (almost literally) and more besides and yet manages to be something utterly new. It also has something to say about the Weinstein situation despite being written and filmed before that story broke…certainly the notion of abuse looms large in the tale.
Much has been made about the decision to film on an iPhone and this is further evidence of Soderbergh’s status as a genuine maverick…what it lends to this film is a level of intimacy that couldn’t have been obtained either digitally or on film and it also flattens much of what we see which lends things an unnerving quality perfectly in keeping with what is playing out on screen.
As ever with Soderbergh you are given what you expected but not in the way you would expect…if that makes any sense at all, which I’m almost certain it doesn’t! I knew this was a horror film…I got a horror film…but I didn’t get a horror film in the same way as I would from another director…does that make sense? No? Damn it.
He’s a genius.
He never disappoints his audience.
You should go see this and feel good about the fact that you are backing a director who uses new techniques, tells interesting stories, doesn’t play the industry game and does it all with his own style. If that’s not worth a few pounds on a Friday night then I don’t know what is.