Steven Soderbergh's new thriller Unsane is unsettling, suspenseful, and well acted. Claire Foy stars as a women evading a stalker who finds herself in an even more terrifying scenario. Shot on an I-Phone with a minimal crew, Unsane is a throwback to Soderbergh's earlier work, and also experiments with thriller genre conventions, proving cinema and narrative tricks never get old.
About halfway through the film Matt Damon appears in a cameo as a security expert who helps stalker victims, the sequence packs all the paranoia of the lead character into crystal clear perspective. Soderbergh ties a story knot that begins when we meet Sawyer, a young professional going about her daily routine, grinding through her work morning, talking to her Mom on Skype during lunch, and going out at night. Sawyer meets a guy at the bar for a casual hook up, but she collapses into tears when they get back to her apartment suggesting a past trauma. The pacing and editing of these scenes are flawless.
Sawyer visits a therapist and makes an unfortunate revelation and is required to stay in a psychiatric ward for a week. We feel the terror and frustration and sense of losing freedom, as Sawyer's surrounded by mentally unstable people. She learns hospitals and insurance companies are running a scam to commit someone to an asylum under shady pretenses. She befriends a fellow inmate Nate (Jay Pharoah) who's also there against his will. In time Sawyer suspects her former stalker David (Joshus Leonard) is employed by the hospital as a nurse. In desperation, Sawyer contacts her Mom (Amy Irving) to come to her rescue.
Soderbergh makes the film thriller work on multiple levels. The cat and mouse stalker concept is terrifying enough, but there's also the fear of the health care system exploiting people. Foy and Pharoah give top notch performances and also inject humor. As is Soderbergh's trademark, the narrative unfolds in a crooked pattern to maximum effect.
The claustrophobia of Unsane is the most unsettling aspect. There's the sense that all of us are being stalked and I suspect you'll walk out of the theater feeling paranoid.