118 Min | Crime – Mystery – Thriller | August 2002
IMDB Rating: 7.2
Director: Christopher Nolan
Starring: Al Pacino, Robin Williams, Hilary Swank
Insomnia Review: Christopher Nolan wasn’t always directing caped crusaders and dreamworld desperadoes. Once upon a time (nine years ago to be exact) he was at the helm of a criminally underrated crime thriller by the name of Insomnia. Starring Al Pacino as a L.A. detective who travels to a remote Alaskan town to help identify the killer of a teen, this is one of Pacino’s most recently truly great performances. Hilary Swank and Robin Williams co-star as an up-and-coming local policewoman and deranged author (respectively), and both do a superb job of keeping pace with the venerable titan of Tinseltown. What’s particularly effective in Insomnia is the excellent use of setting. In Nightmute (sounds inviting, huh?), because of its far-northern location, the sun doesn’t set for long periods of time. This causes Detective Dormer (Pacino) to eventually start falling apart at the seams, as the sun seems to penetrate every effort he makes to lose himself in restful slumber.
Insomnia naturally ties into a specific subtext that reveals much about Dormer’s personality and tainted past as a detective, and it’s very refreshing to see the usual them of darkness giving way to light flipped on its head. The problem with writing a review of Insomnia is that I can’t detail too much about what unfolds (in terms of plot) without ruining some of the major twists that lend genuine weight to the story as it ambles along some truly dark and disturbing corridors. Don’t let the analogy fool you, though, there’s nothing slow about the pacing, and it’s wholly engrossing from start to finish. The sense of impending slumber is imminent, though, and this heightens the tension in the third act when “truth” starts to become a relative term for our exhausted protagonist.
Insomnia isn’t nearly as stylish as Nolan’s most recent offerings, but it’s certainly ably directed and its tale is spun with maximum efficiency. If, for one reason or another, this gem that originally shone almost a decade ago has eluded your radar, be sure to check it out. As for myself, it’s time to get a little shut-eye. Even though Insomnia is a film with lots of flaws, it is still a good film and is worth watching (but more for the psychological aspect rather than the crime/mystery aspect). This was a remake after I’d watched this version so having enjoyed the remake I’ll be sure to check out the original.