*. Unsane is a movie with a gimmick, which is something different than a gimmick movie. The difference being that a gimmick movie is one where the gimmick defines the film in some way. Most “found footage” horror movies could be labeled this way, at least before found footage became its own genre.
*. The gimmick in Unsane, however, is hidden. That’s the point. It was shot entirely on an iPhone, but not an iPhone being used by a character in the movie, as in a shaky-cam feature. Instead, the director Steven Soderbergh wanted to show that a whole film could be made using such a common device and nobody would be able to notice.
*. Well, I think he succeeded. I don’t think anyone who didn’t know this was “the iPhone movie” would notice, even with the distortions of a wide-angle lens. Or that the whole thing was shot in a Cormanesque ten days. Give credit to Soderbergh. He really is a slick director, and he can make anything look professional grade. That’s not entirely a compliment, but just an observation.
*. Unfortunately, aside from this (invisible) achievement, there isn’t much else to recommend Unsane. The cast, headed by Claire Foy, is capable (I won’t say more), but the story is both very simple and very stupid. I was anticipating something far more clever given the premise and the tiny budget, the latter making this an indie feature in all but name.
*. The story has a young woman named Sawyer (Foy) checking into a psychiatric hospital. It’s not clear what is wrong with Sawyer, or through what subterfuge she ends up stuck in the hospital against her will. We just have to go along with it. Then it turns out that a man who had been stalking her is an orderly at the hospital and still has designs on her.
*. Given the classically unreliable protagonist and the genre we’re in (psychological thriller) you’d expect a lot of twists. There are none. For the first half of the movie it’s at least up in the air as to whether Sawyer is just imagining her persecutor, but once that got settled I was waiting for something less predictable, out of left field. I spent the rest of the movie waiting.
*. What we get instead is the old story of the obsessive lover kidnapping the object of his desire, followed by her outwitting him and escaping. There’s nothing new to this at all, to the point where I can’t imagine what anyone saw in the project aside from the possibility of doing it on the cheap, which is something they might have done just as easily with a much better script.
*. And that’s it. I guess there’s some sort of message here about the American health system and the way insurance companies milk patients, but that’s by the way. The bottom line is that nothing interesting happens and, for all Soderbergh’s accomplishment in making such a film look so polished and professional, it still ends up seeming like a waste of time except to prove his point that it could be done.