I’ve reviewed too many hum drum films lately, so i decided to go for one that scores a bit higher with me.
Insomnia was the first film from Christopher Nolan that i had watched. My family and i caught a matinee of it at the old Movies 12 and that would make it one of the first matinees that i ever watched, and let me just add that coming out of this movie in the middle of the day is a rather disorienting experience.
As for the film itself, it has the rotten luck of being released between Memento and Batman Begins, which is ultimately a shame. As its been largely forgotten and buried underneath everything else that came afterwards.
In this Remake of a 1997 Swedish film, Detective Dormer finds himself burning the candle at both ends as he tries to solve the murder of a teenage girl, and cover up his own murder of his partner.
The story itself is a layered affair (something i wish Heat was), with subplots and motivations adding tone and texture to the rather straight forward murder mystery. Watching the story unfold, i get the sense that Dormer is driven less and less by this case, and is driven more and more by an overwhelming sense of guilt. Not just for shooting his partner, but for all the cases where he bent the rules and all the victims that he failed to provide justice. Its a classic case of “man vs self”, and provides the heart of the story.
I wonder why Mr. Nolan hasn’t elected to do more of these cop/killer dramas. His predilection for constant exposition is extremely well suited to situations the require a lot of explanations. But even more interestingly he is far more restrained here than he is in Inception or Interstellar. Much of the motivations are provided by the looks and subtle performances provided by the cast, much of the details are presented naturally and evolve out of the case as it is investigated. Its almost as if Nolan were just a tad bit braver in his early films, and let the character’s actions speak for themselves. But i have a feeling it has more to do with the fact that Nolan and his brothers had nothing to do with writing the screen play.
Speaking of the cast, everyone here is top notch. Al Pacino gives one of his more subdued performances, playing a man battling physical, mental, and spiritual exhaustion and reminds me why he’s one of the greats. Robin Williams is a rather perfect fit as a creepy and off putting killer that Dormer is forced into co-operating with, and a Pre-Million Dollar Baby Hillary Swank plays her wide eyed cop with a sense of intelligence that is rather hard to not like, and easily explains why she would go on to win her Oscar.
I guess i’ll put the fact that this is a remake of an already decent Swedish film here, for a lack of being able to actually put my thumb on anything that i don’t like.
I have seen the remake, however i did view it after i had seen this version of the story. I will be honest and say that i prefer the American version over the Swedish one. There were some strange story elements that i couldn’t quite get behind, and the ending of the original left me cold. I will watch it again one day though, and may like it as its own thing.
Insomnia would appear to be the forgotten middle child of Nolan’s works, i would say its more obscure than The Prestige. Which again is a shame as it is frankly a better movie than the latter, as it is a mature and highly psychological cop thriller, with a great cast, interesting premise and sub plotting, and a layered well motivated story.
I strongly recommend giving it a look, especially if you’re a fan of cop movies and/or anyone involved.
**** OUT OF FIVE