* * 1/2
It’s hard to know why Steven Soderbergh made Unsane, which is not to say it’s not worth seeing. It’s a lot of fun, a cheapie B-Movie exploitation asylum flick, a weird sub-genre that is constantly weakening but never fully dies – witness 2016’s strangely expensive flop A Cure For Wellness.
That film cost forty million bucks, which is really a lot for this type of fare. Unsane, shot by Soderbergh on an iPhone – dare I say shot by Soderbergh on his iPhone? – has the feel of a labor of love made on weekends, in sequence, edited in camera, for, basically, nothing. And maybe it was, and maybe that’s why Soderbergh made it. He loves to dabble.
If this was the debut from some unknown kid at a cool indie film festival, it would garner attention, possible distribution, and, in all likelihood, a modest deal for the filmmaker as an option on their next work. Coming from Soderbergh, who has directed thirty full-length feature films, including some masterpieces, this is minor work, to be shelved alongside Full Frontal and Bubble, although, as a psychiatric thriller, it is far and away closest in tone to Side Effects (2013). Indeed, having made that quirky little freakshow, it’s odd – again! – that he’s made this, which feels like that film’s poor, handmade cousin (and Side Effects was hardly a major cinematic event, despite its qualities).
Indeed, there’d be no reason to endorse this little oddity as anything other than seeing what good ol’ Steve is doing on weekends were it not for Claire Foy, who plays a woman who may or may not be going through a psychotic episode that may or may not stem from a stalking incident. She’s doing an American accent here, and the cynic in me wonders if that’s why Soderbergh made the film – to do her a solid and give her a platform to show a side of her that isn’t terribly British (she plays, on Netflix, for twenty hours, The Queen). It’s certainly an acting vehicle, and she’s good enough to get you through it. I hadn’t seen her work before; this enjoyably campy, lurid little ride was a fun introduction.