Director Christopher Nolan follows up his breakthrough sophomore film Memento with this remake of a stylish Norwegian thriller. Al Pacino stars as Detective Will Dormer, a Los Angeles Police Department legend who temporarily escapes an internal affairs investigation that may ruin his career by traveling to Nightmute, AK, the remote site of a murder that has the local authorities flummoxed. Along with his partner, Hap Eckhart (Martin Donovan), and the small town's wide-eyed rookie investigator, Ellie Burr (Hilary Swank), the exhausted Dormer probes the brutal slaying of a teenage girl who was rumored to have a secret lover. A clever ruse quickly lures the killer into a police trap, but the suspect escapes and a tragic accident at the scene leaves Dormer at the mercy of the murderer, a pulp crime novelist named Walter Finch (Robin Williams). As Finch plays a dangerous game of extortion with Dormer, the detective's mental health deteriorates rapidly from guilt over his complicity in a crime and sleep deprivation compounded by the lack of darkness in the land of the midnight sun. Meanwhile, the bright and dogged Ellie continues putting the pieces of a complex puzzle together despite Dormer's skillful attempts to lead the investigation toward the right suspect, but away from his own malfeasance. Insomnia co-stars Paul Dooley, Nicky Katt, Maura Tierney, and Jonathan Jackson. ~ Karl Williams, Rovi
Movie Level Themes
Mind Games, Blackmail, Murder Investigations, Police Corruption
Movie Level Tones
Understated, Tense, Menacing, Wintry, Deliberate
-Director Christopher Nolan (commentary in order of shooting sequence)
-Hilary Swank, production designer Nathan Crowley, editor Dody Dorn, cinematographer Wally Pfister and screenwriter Hillary Seitz
-Day for Night: Making the movie
-180°: A conversation with Christopher Nolan and Al Pacino
-In the Fog: Cinematography and production design
-Eyes Wide Open: The insomniac's world
Given the narrative daring of Christopher Nolan's unique breakthrough Memento, cinephiles may have expected the director to revolutionize the detective/psycho genre with Insomnia, his remake of the 1997 Norwegian film. Instead, Nolan simply produced a superior example of that form, remarkably straightforward in its approach, which may prove he's positioned to transform cinema as a mainstream product as well as an independent one. In organizing a large budget and a trumpeted cast of Oscar winners into a critically acclaimed hit, Nolan proved his crossover accessibility and gave the world a crime drama with enough style and complexity to stand out. Logically, a film noir set entirely in daylight should struggle to create mood, but Insomnia uses the stark Alaskan landscape to generate the senses of physical and psychological isolation common to that genre. The locale also enables some dynamite sequences, particularly the foot race across floating logs that serves as a centerpiece. Al Pacino's performance is a tour de force; Nolan enhances the actor's bleary-eyed wariness by splicing in dizzy visual flashes and the persistent haunting images that prevent sleep. Robin Williams gives an understated performance, not the "serial killer" some press outlets dubbed him, rather an ordinary man who crosses a line and then slouches toward instability while covering it up. The perky earnestness of Hilary Swank's character somewhat masks her good performance, but she is doing subtle work, too, her hero worship gradually deteriorating into a jaded loss of innocence. Not all plot elements work or justify their inclusion, but that's one of the few missteps by this accomplished piece of popular filmmaking. ~ Derek Armstrong, Rovi
Blu-Ray Drive or Blu-Ray Player
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