Moderator / Reviewer
- Apr 4, 2017
My AV System
- Preamp, Processor or Receiver
- Yamaha TRS-7850 Atmos Receiver
- Other Amp
- Peavy IPR 3000 for subs
- Universal / Blu-ray / CD Player
- Sony ubx800 4K UHD Player
- Front Speakers
- Cheap Thrills Mains
- Center Channel Speaker
- Cheap Thrills Center
- Surround Speakers
- Volt 10 Surrounds
- Surround Back Speakers
- Volt 10 Reach Surrounds
- Rear Height Speakers
- Volt 6 Overheads
- 2x Marty subs (full size with SI 18's)
- Video Display Device
- JVC RS-46 Projector
- Draper Cineperm M1300 119 inch Static Screen
It’s always fascinating to me how quickly people will sign paperwork without reading it thoroughly. I myself sometimes catch myself doing it when I’m at the vet and I know it’s a basic consent form, but how many of us have been caught in purchases or contracts where we didn’t read the fine print? I guess you could say the moral of the story in Steven Soderbergh’s thriller Unsane is “read what you’re signing”, as the main character inadvertently turns her already problematic life into a living nightmare. A nightmare where a seemingly normal girl slips deeper and deeper into madness as time goes on. Unsane has a few unique visual flairs to it thanks to Soderbergh (including a different aspect ratio) and really amps up the first two acts with a taught sense of unease and nervousness, but ultimately has a few problems sticking the landing in the final act.
Unsane opens up with the point of view of a stalker. He is OBSESSED with a young woman who has caught his fancy, and latched on the “object” of his affection (and I really mean object), showering her with unwanted affection and unrequited love. A few moments later we’re introduced to his victim, one Sawyer Valentini (Claire Foy), a seemingly confident woman without any major problems. However, after a seemingly innocent attempt at a one night stand, we realize Sawyer is anything but problem free. Her experience with her stalker has given her an unhealthy fear of people, and she sees flickers of him in other people. She’s had to move away from her mother to a brand new city, and have a brand new job away from the problem, but the emotional scars from being stalked still are visceral and very real to her.
After going to a mental health facility to talk to a counselor, Sawyer inadvertently signs some “routine” paperwork, and before she knows it she’s being asked to step into a hospital room and have her bag searched. Still not sure what’s going on, Sawyer complies until she’s asked to do a strip search. Trying to leave the room she finds out that she’s locked in and is informed that what she signed was a voluntary 24 hour psyche hold. Frustrated, but left with no other option, the young woman spends the night in the psyche ward only to find out that her 24 hour hold is denied by the doctor, who says she has problems (due to her mentioning that after her stalker ordeal she had contemplated the idea of suicide) and he is recommending a 7 day involuntary hold.
Soderbergh is a man who really loves to be inventive with his filming styles, and Unsane is no different a film for him. The auteur creates a film that really is unnerving and terrorizes the viewer with an odd array of colors and filming styles to create an unsettling mood. He actually had the entire film shot in 1.58:1 (a weird mix between the old fashioned 1.33:1 and full screen widescreen 1.85:1), and used an iPhone 7 Plus to shoot the entire thing! The result is an odd documentary style that puts objects very firmly into the fore ground (with some shots reaching directly into the camera at times). This technique makes it feel rough, raw, and extremely disheveled at times. It allows us to see Clarie’s experience as some sort of descent into a nightmare, and the nontraditional filming style gives the sensation of a first person “found footage” film, but without the actual tropes of a found footage movie.
One thing that Soderbergh does EXTREMELY well, is to make us wonder the entire movie. Is Sawyer really sane? Or has her traumatic experience with David (Joshua Leonard) actually made her a viable candidate for a forced stay? Is she ACTUALLY seeing David at the hospital? Or is she just projecting her fears onto the face of an innocent orderly? The surreal nightmare makes us question all of these things, but rest assure. Soderbergh doesn’t leave you hanging, as he wraps up those loose ends in the final act. However, that final act is also the problem with the film. The first 2 acts are done so incredibly cleverly and smartly that I have to give a round of applause for their nuance and energy. But it’s when he gets to the third act that the direction changes to a much more traditional thriller ending, and seems to undercut the trippy and nightmare fueled opening and middle act. The acting is top notch, with Claire giving an amazing performance, and some smartly done side characters who really add authenticity to the thriller’s premise.
Rated R for disturbing behavior, violence, language, and sex references
4K Video: Video:
You wouldn't really think of it to look at it, but Unsane's unique shooting style makes it seem like it wouldn't be a worthwhile endeavor, as the idea of a cell phone camera doesn't exactly bring forth mental images of beautiful looking imagery. That being said, the 4K UHD disc makes a substantial improvement over the Blu-ray release in several ways. The film WAS finished at 4K for the master, but I was really surprised how much crisper and cleaner the disc looked in 4K. The HDR also makes some really impressive improvements over the Blu-ray. The striking colors that Soderbergh employs for the film are just that much more vibrant and punchy, especially the out door shots where the blue sky, green foliage, and earth tones really pop off the screen. The heavy green/yellow/blue color gradings that he employs throughout the film are brighter and give forth a really nice popping sensation. Black levels are also more detailed and revealing, without some of the crush that I noticed in the 1080p release.
While the idea of Unsane is preposterous at first, there IS some basis of truth for the film. Back in 2016 there was an investigative bit of journalism that uncovered the shocking secret in the health care community. One of the largest mental health providers in the country was bending and twisting the truth a bit, using every method they possibly could to get someone committed for a week or so in order to bill the insurance. Much like the theory of “cops need ticket quotas”, this provider was trying to fill slots in their roster as a money making scheme. While Soderbergh has never come out and stated if that bit of journalism was his basis for the film, but whether intentional or not, his gaslighting of the situation makes for a chilling corollary to real life. A move which makes the movie even more uncomfortably terrifying than it already is. Universal’s 4K is excellently done, with great audio and video, but a fairly minimal array of extras like the Blu-ray.. It’s an intelligently done thriller, and one done with such unique visual flairs that it really has to be watched and experienced. There are some hiccups in the final act, but overall Unsane is a well done thriller. If I had to choose between the 4K UHD disc and the Blu-ray combo pack, I would easily choose this 4K UHD set. It surpasses the video in the Blu-ray by a good margin, and both discs are priced within a few dollars of each other, making it a no brainer in my humble opinion
Starring: Claire Foy, Joshua Leonard, Jay Pharoah
Directed by: Steven Soderbergh
Written by: Jonathan Bernstein, James Greer
Aspect Ratio: 1.58:1 HEVC
Audio: English: DTS-HD MA 5.1
Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish
Runtime: 98 minutes
Blu-Ray Release Date: June 19th, 2018
Recommendation: Solid Watch