Home Entertainment {Movie Review} Unrest is disorienting

{Movie Review} Unrest is disorienting

by Ana Lopez
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Unrest hits the screen moving at Mach ten. We get about a paragraph from Sam’s (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) backstory before we’re catapulted into the action. While Unrest has some problems, NO ONE will claim it’s boring. The action is consistent and the pacing causes fear as the audience tries to keep up with the bizarre new world Sam encounters in the hospital. Writer/director Michael Winnick offers a flawed but interesting surreal landscape that makes up for the relatively weak character development with a funky and haunting style that drew me in.

Most of the time, the bones of the story are pretty straightforward. After a near-fatal car accident, Sam (Meyers) wakes up to find himself trapped in an abandoned hospital by mysterious and sinister forces who have no intention of letting him leave. He must come to grips with his past mistakes in order to move on from the hospital. But hey, no one likes to deal with our past, especially when we’ve soaked up the day.

From the start, Sam is attacked by patients from the hospital. Each new monster feels like it’s been snatched from a Silent Hill game in a run-down hospital. The small cast also adds to the video game feel, as Sam has to help out and get help from a variety of companions he encounters along the way as he tries to make his way to the lobby. As new monsters are introduced and old ones return, the big bad guys seem to get more bloodthirsty and crazier as the movie progresses. A little lip service is being paid to this increase in violence, but it is not necessary. Once the movie starts to feel like a video game, the bosses get tougher. It is a given.

The new fear in every room, coupled with fascinating aesthetic choices, gives Unrest also a comic book like atmosphere. Each new room a new comic cell to investigate for clues. The only thing missing are added graphics like BANG!!! or POW!!!

Thanks to Paramount

The journey itself could get a bit tiresome if every level and monster didn’t bring so many interesting aesthetic choices. Perhaps leading the assault on the monster front would be a trio of plastic surgery victims who could double up as early stage cenobites. If the monsters weren’t scary, the movie wouldn’t work at all. However, Winnick does everything he can to make all the monsters feel threatening.

The main characters almost fall victim to these monsters on several occasions, but most of the time they are victims of the film’s relentless pacing that propels the action forward. We get very little time to get to know them. This is especially true for Sam. We get some backstory through flashbacks about his relationship with his wife and his infidelity, which seems to affect all aspects of their current relationship. At best, Sam becomes an audience surrogate who seems equally surprised at where he has ended up and what is happening to him. As a result of that choice, he has very little freedom of choice and even less development. While Meyers does a lot with the minimal amount he gets, Sam still feels only partially developed. The rest of the cast plays their roles superbly, especially Virgil (Garry Chalk). Virgil, whose name might imply, becomes one of Sam’s guides. He exudes a sweet and calm energy that gives him a golden retriever feel, which in a film that feels like a dark version of Oz of Wonderland is a nice relief.

The premise of Unrest is interesting enough to draw audiences in. The neon-infused color palette does enough to keep people engaged. In the core, Unrest uses a rather well-trodden biblical allegory of heaven and hell to tell us a story of personal redemption and terror. The movie itself is nothing new, but it does offer a variety of interesting scares along with a mystery closer to an escape room movie without the novelty of a true solution. Are you going up or are you going down? That’s the game to find out. It is mainly a matter of height. The film’s climax is confusing and chilling as characters reappear, but this time as different characters in flashbacks.

I expected something Shyamalan-like clarification with the twist. Winnick is not interested in that level of explanation, but rather wants the audience to work out an interpretation that suits them. If you are willing to work, Unrest maybe the kind of movie for you.

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