Navigating through a mad, fast-changing world is something Claire Foy does well; she’s shown us as much on ‘The Crown’. Now she repeats the trick in ‘Unsane’, a scrappy, shot-on-an-iPhone thriller elevated by Foy’s steely exterior. She plays a businesswoman, Sawyer, who is committed to a mental health ward after some insurance company sleight-of-hand. Following the genre template of ‘Shock Corridor’ and ‘Shutter Island’, she befriends a fellow patient (Jay Pharoah) and crosses swords with another (an intense Juno Temple). But in a canny twist, she also comes face-to-face with a kindly nurse who she swears is the dangerous man that’s been stalking her for years. Cue the gaslighting.
The script is marred by faulty trip wires and too many clichés, while director Steven Soderbergh, Hollywood’s restless alchemist, is interested in the plot only as a means of experimenting with style. Filming on a smartphone drains any slickness away while giving it a nervy, disorienting kick. There’s a palpable sense of a filmmaker at play, not least when he chucks in one of his ‘Ocean’s Eleven’ stars for a surprise cameo (we won’t ruin it). Realising that some of cinema’s greatest turns are in B movies, he’s created another vehicle for Foy’s ferocious presence. She never stoops to a pat depiction of female victimhood, instead inviting us to see the rigged world through her whirlpool eyes. n Joe McGovern