Insomnia (2002)

Directed by Christopher Nolan
Written by Hillary Seitz, based on the 1997 screenplay by Nikolai Frobenius & Erik Skjoldbjærg
Starring Al Pacino, Robin Williams, Hilary Swank, Maura Tierney, Martin Donovan

My Advice: Wait and Rent It.

Will Dormer (Pacino) and his partner Hap (Donovan) have been sent out "on loan" to the small burg of Wintermute, Alaska. A young girl has been found brutally murdered, and the local head law burrito (Paul Dooley) is glad for the help. Ellie Burr (Swank), an ambitious law officer, is glad to see Dormer show up as well, seeing as how she's a big fan of his. But when the killer (Williams) sees something he wasn't supposed to, he's got something on Will. And he intends to use it. All the while, the white nights (the sun doesn't set for months that far north) are keeping Dormer from sleeping and driving him up the wall.

There's nothing extremely wrong with this piece, but there's nothing terribly right about it, either. It's not a bad movie, but the problem is it's not a real impressive one. It's truly your standard thriller fare, which is certainly beneath the talents assigned to it. Pacino is Pacino, and you can't do anything about him--he's always good. Williams is even good and cannily cast, desperately trying to distance himself from happy-happy roles like Bicentennial Man. He has a level of humor to him, but it's good and dark--he never breaks out into Big and Bold RobinTM mode. Swank...could have been anybody, really, there's not much for her to do. As for Nolan, whose Memento was one of the only two five-cup films of last year, I never really saw his thumbprint on this. Not that everyone can be or should be Fincher (really dark, fluorescent lights flickering) or Lynch (strange imagery full of sound and fury, etc.), but there was nothing I could use to keep this from being a generic hunt-the-killer thriller.

Part of this are the obvious questions that spring to mind. Dormer can't sleep, but he never inquires at the hotel front desk about Sominex. Or about some way of keeping the sunlight out of his room. And this guy is a superstar L.A. detective? Sure, he's a bit distracted--but still. Another example: Williams reveals something about his actions towards the end which make no sense in the context of the action. A thriller with a little more meat would keep such thoughts from flying into my head, but alas.

It's an okay flick, but I wouldn't go so far as to tell you to catch it in the cinema. Save some coin and wait for it to hit DVD, then rent the thing.

Buy the original on DVD from Amazon!
Buy the novelization from Amazon!
Buy the musical score on CD from Amazon!

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