Unsane

 

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A tense drama given extra strength due to the memorable contribution by its leading lady.

 
Unsane  

Mad about the girl: Claire Foy

 

The great thing about this new film from director Steven Soderbergh is the outstanding performance by Claire Foy. The British actress has what is absolutely the central role in this American drama and what she achieves here confirms the special standing that she has attained recently through her co-starring role in Breathe and her acclaimed television appearances, including her portrayal of the young Queen Elizabeth in The Crown.

 

This piece written by Jonathan Bernstein and James Greer takes Foy into fresh areas for this is a contemporary thriller which, thanks to its talented cast but especially to Foy herself, encourages us to lap up a tale which, however extravagant, has the power to grip us. Foy plays Sawyer Valentini who to escape from a persistent stalker has moved from Boston to Pennsylvania where she has acquired a post working for a bank. But despite this move she does not feel settled and suffers from panic attacks. Accordingly she seeks advice from a counsellor at the Highland Creek Behavioural Centre but, having signed some papers that had seemed to be a mere formality, she discovers that she has delivered herself into their hands: promptly and despite her protests she is incarcerated as an inmate, initially for twenty-four hours but then for a week.

 

We can readily identify with Sawyer as she tries to escape from this situation, but even so we start to wonder if she has indeed become unhinged - and that seems all the more possible when she claims that one of the nurses (Joshua Leonard) is not the man he claims to be but her stalker. The film builds in this way for two-thirds of its length and the adroit casting of supporting roles (Jay Pharoah and Juno Temple as contrasted inmates, Polly McKie as a sinister nurse, Matt Damon in a cameo part) encourages us to disregard loopholes in the plot. However, what has been well judged as an escapist piece of thriller entertainment not lacking in tension leads into a third act different in character. Here the film comes close to the horror genre and ends up going overboard in that direction.

 

This last section was much less to my taste than what had preceded it, but those more attracted to the extremes of improbability so often present in horror movies may well embrace it (if you felt that the last reel of Get Out didn't let it down, you may well go with this). The fact that Soderbergh shot this film on an iPhone has been much commented upon but is hardly significant (it is quite acceptable but less striking than Sean Baker's Tangerine which was comparably made). On its own terms, this offers a frequently engaging night out if not much more, yet to leave it at that would be to undervalue what Claire Foy brings to this movie.

 

MANSEL STIMPSON

 

Cast: Claire Foy, Joshua Leonard, Jay Pharoah, Juno Temple, Aimee Mullins, Amy Irving, Sarah Stiles, Gibson Frazier, Aimee Mullins, Matt Damon.

 

Dir Steven Soderbergh, Pro Joseph Malloch, Screenplay Jonathan Bernstein and James Greer, Ph Peter Andrews, Pro Des April Lasky, Ed Mary Ann Bernard, Music David Wilder Savage, Costumes Susan Lyall.

 
New Regency/Extension765-20th Century Fox.
98 mins. USA. 2018. Rel: 23 March 2018. Cert. 15.