Director: Christopher Nolan
Tough as steel 5.0. Will (Pacino) is sent to icy Nightmute, Alaska to investigate the slaying of a young chickadee. When he “accidentally” shoots his partner while chasing the murderer (Williams), the latter (who witnessed the shooting) decides to blackmail him. An odd game of cat and pussy begins between the two men and insomnia kicks in for poor Will.
Christopher Nolan, the director of the hypnotizing "Memento" tackles this remake of the Norwegian thriller of the same name. The flick has its heart in the right place, but the screenplay has its faults. Read on, Cowboy!
On the bright side, the head honcho of acting graces us with his presence. Al “The Lion” Pacino commands the screen as usual and was the main glue that kept my eyes to the screen. We even get a couple of trademark Pacino "left field" outbursts and if like me, they usually slap a huge grin on your face...you’ll be well served here. The movie’s icy locations are also a big plus. The astounding Alaska scenery (mostly British Columbia posing as Alaska) left me breathless. I gotta hit Alaska…I mean B.C. on my next vacation. Wow! The gnarly setting was also responsible for one of the flick’s more memorable sequences: an on foot chase on top of floating logs…FUN STUFF! You don’t see that every day.
I also really connected with the film’s most prominent theme: Will’s inner struggle. The movie approaches that aspect with ambiguity and credibility. Shite, the flick could’ve been just about that and it would’ve been fine by me! The movie also sports one kool element that I’ve never seen brought up before: at times, the nights in Alaska are “California” like sunny. Imagine that? Sunshine at night! I’d go freaking insane! That seasonal quirk eventually goes hand in hand with Will’s progressive insomnia and ups the anguish that he’s going through. Nice touch! I also truly relished how Pacino approached his diminishing mental state. Now that’s acting! And the way that Nolan used quick flashes and plays with sound to communicate what Will was going through helped bring home our perception of his tortuous journey. So what’s the freaking problem here, you may ask?
Well, the film is also supposed to be an engrossing murder/mystery and in that respect...it failed. It all starts off on the right foot and that’s what makes it so frustrating! I was into that investigation jive and the film led me into thinking that it was going to be all about that! Unfortunately for me, the murder case storyline took a backseat to make way for the exploration of Will’s state of noggin (as stated earlier; that was still slick to watch) and a sub-par subplot that wound up taking too much screen time for what it was worth. Yes, I’m talking about the Ellie (Swank) character and everything that came with her. First off, she’s stereotypically written and Miss Swank runs with it, playing her in a clichéd fashion. Second of all, the path that Ellie took was just too deja-vu and predictable to engage me on any level. I saw it coming miles away and when it arrived, I wasn’t too peachy on having to sit through it. Why did the flick have to take such an obvious route? Why didn’t it stick to the main murder case and the players that were related to it? Like the victim, the abusive boyfriend (wonderfully played by Jonathan Jackson) or the backstabbing best friend (played by "Ginger Snaps" hottie Katharine Isabelle)! I was grooving on them much more than I was on Ellie’s lame “Sherlock Holmes” routine. Alas, they eventually all dropped out of the picture and Ellie stayed… urg…
Then, we have our enigmatic killer, who’s so subdued and soft spoken that I hardly noticed that he was in the damn movie! What was this dude’s damage anyways? He didn’t help to make the happenings more involving, that’s fer sure! I would’ve appreciated more insight as to who he was, why he committed the crime and how he did it. What I got wasn’t enough, yo! Tag to that Robin Williams’ one-note showing and you get a blander than Shatner “villain”. To be fair, I did enjoy the interrogation scene which Williams shared with Pacino. That was intense fun! We needed more scenes like that! I think that having a more charismatic and edgy actor playing Finch might've elevated the mundanely written role to a higher level. Here, Williams just doesn’t bring enough to the part. Where’s Kevin Spacey when you need him?
Overall though, "Insomnia" is still a worth a peek-a-boo. Pacino’s performance alone makes it worth the price of admission and the coins for a nacho plate with lots of cheese/salsa. Add to that, the tight pace, the gorgeous locations, a couple of suspenseful scenes and the snazzy directing and you get a digestible romp. But I can’t help but wonder how stronger the film would’ve been if it had nixed the garbage to solely concentrate on the complex Will and his investigation. A different actor portraying the killer would’ve helped too…but that’s just me… Can you sleep?
Nothing to write to your mistress about here. We get gunshot wounds and a cadaver.
Is it me or did Pacino finally re-discover his acting balance with "Donnie Brasco"? Before that film, he had become a rabid scene chewer. "Heat" was definitely the peek of that stage. I’m happy to see the dude in tip-top shape again. We are now able to fully enjoy his immense talent once again. Al Pacino (Will) is the main reason why I enjoyed this baby; he’s mostly restrained here but when he explodes…HE EXPLODES! The man gives a very grounded and gripping performance. I LOVE THIS DUDE! Robin Williams (Finch) needed a kick in the ass! He’s by far the more “blah” killer to ever grace the screen. Wake up dude! You’re in a movie!!! To be nice, I will say that the script didn’t always work in his favor. Hilary Swank (Ellie) looks cute and does what she has to do, but her part is too generic to leave an impression. Jonathan Jackson (Randy) and Katharine Isabelle show up briefly and kick that ass! They’re both likeable and competent actors.
T & A
A naked female cadaver. Not fun nudity.
Apart from actor extraordinaire Al Pacino, Nolan’s directing style is one of the film’s other strong assets. He perfectly captures the somber aura of his Alaska location (adored the whole fog thang), does awesome things with sound, excels in aerial shots and uses quick flashy cuts like a champ. Props also go out to the cinematographer. Great job, buddy!
The score by David Julyan is appropriately moody and somber. Groovy!
I dug "Insomnia" on some wave lengths but I found the script too busy for its own good. I mean, you have a murder/mystery, Ellie’s own investigation, the Will/Finch relationship, the internal affair dealio and Will’s inner struggle. That’s a lot of beef to fully pound into a 2-hour picture! Unfortunately, apart from Will’s mental breakdown, all of the other ingredients in the narrative didn’t get the focus which they deserved. The mystery should’ve been more mysterious, the thrills more thrilling and the Ellie subplot should’ve been chain-sawed out of there! Maybe if Nolan would’ve ran the film backwards it might’ve been…just kidding! At least Pacino gets to yell a few times and nobody barks like Al fuckin' Pacino! BOOYA!
This flick is a remake of Erik Skjoldbjærg 1997 movie Insomnia. It starred "Stellan Skarsgård.