Ebert:1/2 Rolling Stone: TV Guide:
Warning, major plot points revealed!
Insomnia was one of my best movie going experiences ever. Click here to find out why.
The movie creates a feeling of insomnia for the viewer so that you actually experience it along with the main character. Director Christopher Nolan has used this compulsory viewer participation process before to great success in his brilliant film Memento. Here again, in his first major studio production, is another excellent film.
Insomnia is a remake of the Norwegian film of the same name, made by Erik Skjoldbjaerg. Sent to Alaska to work on a case while Internal Affairs builds one against them back in LA, Detective Will Dormer (Al Pacino) and his partner Hap investigate a murder. A high school girl has been beaten to death and the local police need assistance. We soon find out that Hap has been approached with a deal by Internal Affairs and he tells Dormer that he plans to take it . Dormer sets a trap for the killer and ends up shooting and killing Hap during the pursuit. The killer sees this and soon contacts Dormer to strike a bargain.
Pacino could not have been more perfectly cast in a movie. His normally saggy eyes and droopy face are used to absolute perfection in his portrayal of the sleep deprived detective. He plays the role in a very intense way but not the annoyingly over-the -top method he's been using for the last decade. Hilary Swank is good but stuck in a supporting role. Robin Williams does a brilliant job as Dormer's nemesis; author and murderer Walter Finch. Williams also turned down the personality to capture the disturbed quiet of his guilty character.
The other star of the film is the cinematography. The Alaskan wilderness never looked so big. The opening shots of the plane arriving in town use this camera shot from above the plane that keeps pulling back until the plane is a tiny dot in the enormous cold world below. The constant light of the never-ending days in Alaska are also wonderfully used to keep both Pacino and the audience ill at ease. Cinematographer Wally Pfister should be nominated for this movie.
I really enjoyed this film. I would have seen it sooner but it came out right between Spiderman and Star Wars. I suppose it was released during this time so that the grown-ups would have a movie to go see as well. Unfortunately for Insomnia, everyone (including the grown-ups), went to see the other two movies instead. Fortunately, the DVD and video will be available soon. So if you don't have a second run theatre in your area watch for the release date of this movie at your local video store. It's well worth the rental.