One of the most riveting psychological thrillers of recent years, the intricately written, tautly directed Insomnia is further enhanced by superb performances from two enormously gifted actors. Al Pacino shines as a famous Los Angeles police detective working a murder case in Alaska while trying to ride out an internal-affairs investigation back home. Robin Williams portrays the murderer, a clever detective-story writer who reveals his identity to Pacino early on and engages the detective in a potentially deadly cat-and-mouse game. In this American-made adaptation of a well-received 1997 Norwegian film (which starred Stellan Skarsgard as the cop), director Christopher Nolan retains the original’s primary gimmick: Suddenly transported to the land of the midnight sun, the detective is unable to adjust, and his mental acuity is blunted by sleep deprivation. Both Pacino and Williams are uncharacteristically understated, and they receive top-notch support from Hilary Swank (as an eager-beaver Alaskan cop who admires the L.A. detective), Maura Tierney, Nicky Katt, Martin Donovan, and Paul Dooley. The multilayered plot unfolds without resorting to phony melodrama or cheap shocks, which automatically gives Nolan’s movie an edge on the competition. In a genre too often dominated by lazy scripting, two-dimensional characters, and formulaic direction, Insomnia gets extremely high marks. In addition to supplying his own feature-length commentary for the DVD, Nolan conducts an on-camera interview with Pacino and provides commentary for deleted and extended scenes. Swank does her own commentary, and there are two making-of featurettes along with a gallery of stills, production sketches, and posters.
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.
[Nolan] is a filmmaker in full control of mood, tone, and pacing, to whom actors as wildly different as Pacino and Williams can entrust their best instincts, rather than their showiest. Lisa Schwarzbaum
Intensely sharp-witted remake of the noir thriller Insomnia. Elvis Mitchell
Unlike most remakes, the Nolan Insomnia is not a pale retread, but a re-examination of the material, like a new production of a good play.
|Source:||Warner Home Video|
|Sound:||[Dolby AC-3 Surround Sound]|