Archive for the ‘Unsane (2018)’ Category

Blu-ray Cover

Distributor: Universal Studios

Release Date: June 19, 2018

Region: Region A

Length: 01:38:11

Video: 1080P (MPEG-4, AVC)

Main Audio: 5.1 English DTS-HD Master Audio

Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish

Ratio: 1.56:1

Note: This release comes with a DVD copy of the film as well as an Ultraviolet version for those who insist on streaming movies.

Title

“I think this is the future… Anybody going to see this movie who has no idea of the backstory to the production will have no idea this was shot on the phone. That’s not part of the conceit… People forget, this is a 4k capture. I’ve seen it 40 feet tall. It looks like velvet. This is a game changer to me.” –Steven Soderbergh (indiewire.com)

Did anyone really believer Steven Soderbergh when he announced his retirement all those years ago? Side Effects (2013) was planned as his last film, but this was soon followed by a decent made-for-cable biopic about Liberace entitled Behind the Candelabra (2013) that same year. He then worked steadily in television while directing every episode of The Knick well into 2015 (when the show was canceled). Perhaps he merely meant that he would be retiring from film. Television is, after all, a different animal. The point is that it was hardly a surprise when he resurfaced with Logan Lucky (2017). One doubts if most people even noticed his absence since his television work kept him in the public consciousness (or at least the consciousness of anyone who cared).

I’m glad that he never made good on his threats to leave the cinema scene because he is one of the more interesting living filmmakers. Unfortunately, his filmography is decidedly uneven due to his tendency to make the occasional experimental feature. These films probably do wonders for his creative evolution but rarely do much for his audience. He calls them “palate cleansers,” but they are usually pretentious and barely watchable exercises that can only be described as masturbatory. Schizopolis (1996), Full Frontal (2002), Bubble (2005), and The Girlfriend Experience (2009) are all examples—although we admit that some of these are more watchable than others.

Schizopolis is a low-budget exercise in incoherent stupidity that stars Soderbergh in two different roles. It was shot on 35mm film with a budget of $250,000, an extremely small crew, and no script. Full Frontal was a Dogma 95-esque effort shot on mini-dv with the Canon XL-1S but featured an all-star cast (with the exception of some very brief “film-within-a-film scenes that were shot on 35mm with traditional lighting). The budget on this effort was 2 million, but it is likely that the majority of this was used up on the actor’s salaries. Bubble is a much more interesting work and was shot on high definition video for 1.6 million dollars in much the same manner he used for Full Frontal. However, this time unknowns were cast and the script was more interesting. The Girlfriend Experience (which starred Sasha Grey) took a similar approach but was shot with a Red One camera which rendered a more polished (but still very raw) image.

When it was revealed that the director had secretly filmed a horror film using only an iPhone 7 Plus and the FiLMiC Pro app, this indicated that we were in for another of these exercises. Luckily, this 1.5 million dollar effort was worth his time and the money that he used to make it. Unsane (2018) features Claire Foy, Joshua Leonard (The Blair Witch Project), Amy Irving (Carrie, Traffic), and Matt Damon (Good Will Hunting) and tells the story of a paranoid woman who has become the victim of an obsessed stalker. It is one of those films that puts the audience in the same frame of mind as a paranoid protagonist so that we are unable to determine what is real and what is delusion—but Soderbergh’s approach is always interesting and in the end quite effective. Mystery and tension is built and sustained throughout most of the duration, and this is really all that the viewer really wants from this sort of film. It may not be one of the director’s best efforts, but it is certainly his greatest “palate cleanser.”

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The Presentation:

3.5 of 5 Stars

Universal protects the Blu-ray and DVD discs in a standard 2-disc case with a sleeve featuring artwork taken from the film’s one-sheet (flipped here and cropped with text in the middle rather than at the top and bottom). We’re not sure why the marketing team found it necessary to make changes, but we can at least give them credit for not using completely different and less interesting artwork. The case is protected by a slipcover featuring the same artwork.

One Sheet

The film’s American One Sheet.

The disc’s static menu features a portion of this artwork and is designed in the same manner as other Universal Blu-ray menus. They are reasonably attractive and easy to navigate but will not win any awards for creativity.

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Picture Quality:

4 of 5 Stars

The first thing that needs to be reiterated here is that Steven Soderbergh shot the entire movie on an iPhone 7 Plus with a Moment lens. The surprise is that this approach actually works quite well for this particular film, and the image is reasonably well defined in the film’s brighter scenes. Darker scenes are less detailed and not as attractive in the film’s darker moments, but never to a distracting degree. Colors aren’t quite as vivid as they might. Some of the night scenes were shot day for night with a blue filter while daytime interiors lean towards warm amber hues. Whatever the perceived weaknesses may be, it this transfer almost certainly represents the original image as well as it can be represented on the Blu-ray format. What more can anyone reasonably ask?

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Sound Quality:

4.5 of 5 Stars

The 5.1 English DTS-HD Master Audio offers a reasonably dynamic experience that again represents the original source mix as it was intended to be heard. Ambient sounds are well separated and add a bit of depth to the mix as does the sparse musical scoring. Dialogue is consistently clear and well prioritized as well. There are some really interesting sonic collages used to put the viewer in the protagonist’s frame of mind—the most notable example would probably be the scene after she has been given the wrong medication and she freaks out as a result. More subtly nuanced sound designs are also utilized and are well served by this mix.

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Special Features:

0.5 of 5 Stars

Unsanity – (04:26)

What a terribly disappointing featurette. Actually, the word “featurette” is laughable. It is simply a collection of a few behind the scenes snippets that have been cut together with footage from the film without even the usual generic interview comments to add context. The clips aren’t long enough to gather much in the way of information as to how the film was shot (which would have been something worth exploring considering that the film was shot on an iPhone). We really needed a proper “Making of” documentary for this film. Whatever happened to real bonus content? This doesn’t count.

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Final Words:

Those who like Steven Soderbergh probably don’t need to be sold, but this movie also earns an easy recommendation for anyone who enjoys diverting psychological thrillers. Unsane probably doesn’t rate amongst the best in this genre, but it is superior to many of the more recent genre titles. It might not become a new favorite, but there are worse ways to spend a rainy afternoon.

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