Archive for Joshua Leonard


Posted in Movies, Reviews, Thriller with tags , , , , , , on March 23, 2018 by darklordbunnykins


Steven Soderbergh’s 2011 film Contagion was terrifying in its depiction of how easily disease could devastate the planet. But Unsane is the prolific director’s first foray into horror, albeit with a sociopolitical edge that will let snobs to call it a ‘thriller’ instead.

The Crown‘s Claire Foy stars as the unlikely named Sawyer Valentini, a young executive who has moved from Boston to Pennsylvania to get away from her stalker David Strine (The Blair Witch Project‘s Joshua Leonard). The stress from that experience continues to fuck with her life so Sawyer books an appointment with a doctor from the first place that pops up in her researches, the Highland Creek Behavioral Center.

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Her first session at Highland seems to go well, but lurking within the sheaf of documents she hastily signs but does not read is a form that lets the facility hold her for 24 hours. Understandably upset, Sawyer tries to leave, but when she punches an orderly she has mistaken for Strine, her 24-hour stay is extended indefinitely. Thus begins an ongoing nightmare in which she is hassled by her fellow inmates, drugged into coherence, and, most horrifically, confronted by Strine who has followed her to Pennsylvania and secured a job, under an alias, at Highland.

Unsane is an uneven film whose strengths are undercut by unanswered questions. Most notably, how did Strine know that Sawyer would go to Highland for treatment? Is he just a lucky guesser? Is Sawyer just that unlucky?

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Leaving that massive plot hole aside, there is a lot of good work here. Foy is astounding as a terrorized woman struggling to maintain a life in the face of unwanted attentions. One scene depicting her confronting Strine within the confines of a padded cell is masterful in how Sawyer slowly turn the tables on Shrine, whose hollow-eyed menace crumbles in the wake of a strength born of the knowledge that she has power over him if she chooses to take it. Leonard is equally fascinating, depicting Strine as powerful and scary, yes, but also weak and child-like.

Unsane‘s depiction of mental illness is just realistic enough to be frightening, especially if you have ever visited someone confined to an actual mental health ward. Soderbergh includes a particularly evocative scene that depicts Sawyer’s experience of being drugged incorrectly (by Strine) that is harrowing in its surrealism. And the film’s back-story of how America’s private mental health industry attempts to confine patients who may not actually be ill in order to siphon off their insurance money – which is exactly Sawyer’s situation – is even scarier.

Unsane feels at times like a horror movie made by a director reluctant to admit to himself that he is actually making a horror film and is not overly familiar with the genre. That said, the young lady beside me at my screening was squirming in her seat and screaming at regular intervals from obvious discomfort. So good on you, Steven.