Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Insomnia ★★★

Image result for Insomnia 2002 film stills

    Sleep is a sine qua non. Every human being needs a tranquil night of sleep to live and to function properly. "Insomnia" is a 2002 thriller that centers on sleep deprivation and its effect on a veteran LAPD detective while he is working a young girl's homicide. This picture is a remake of the 1997 Norwegian film of the same name. With direction by Christopher Nolan and featuring an all-star cast, "Insomnia" will delight and entertain with its fast-paced action and dark undertones.

     "Insomnia" begins with two LAPD detectives making their way by airplane to the small fishing town of Nightmute, Alaska. They have been assigned to help the local police force with a 17-year-old girl's murder. However, this is only one of numerous concerns that plague our central character, Will Dormer; Dormer is a veteran detective who has made reckless decisions in the past to guarantee that criminals remain behind bars. (Is this a crime?) Well, the internal affairs division of Los Angeles seems to think so, and they are knee-deep in an investigation of Dormer. Tagging along for this case is Dormer's younger and less perspicacious partner, Hap Eckhart. The relationship between the two is strenuous, to say the least, considering Eckhart intends to cut a deal with internal affairs to throw Dormer under the bus.

    Combine this with the fact that Nightmute is suffering from the perpetual daylight of the "midnight sun" and Dormer is in for a long work week.

    The murder victim is Kay Connell, and, after a small breakthrough by finding the girl's backpack, Dormer instructs for it to be replaced and to announce that it is missing. Consequently, this will inveigle the killer back to the scene of the crime where the detectives will be waiting. This particular scene, along with the aide of some thick fog, will set the blueprint for the rest of the film. Dormer will find himself in an even more precarious position than when he first arrives and realizes that he may have something in common with the would be killer.

    Our performances in "Insomnia" are modest to say the least, with the exception of Al Pacino, who even at an older age still proves that he has the mojo to carry a less than stellar cast. Pacino excels in the role of Will Dormer and demonstrates his experience as an actor. His dreary line filled face makes him an essential casting for this character, who, evidently, has seen one too many murders and has been beaten into submission by a career filled with dread and anxiety. Pacino's delicate performance breathes life into this gloomy film, and he displays flashes of brilliance in a few particular scenes, including a scene in which he interrogates and scorns a young girlfriend of Kay Connell.

    The rest of the cast is headed up by Robin Williams in his role as Walter Finch, a local writer, and admirer of the deceased teenage girl. Williams shines in this performance, which, unfortunately, is limited to phone conversations and short-lived dialogue. Nevertheless, Williams exhibits a sense of dignity and blends well with the character of Dormer. Their scenes together highlight this film and simply gives us a reason to watch. Hilary Swank, an Academy Award winning actress, rounds out this cast with her role as Ellie Burr, one of the local police officers of Nightmute. Swank is acceptable in her performance as a young and inexperienced detective who acts as a sponge in order to absorb all of Dormer's experience and intellect. Swank also converses well with Pacino and shows that she is more than just something sweet to look at.

    Christopher Nolan is best known for his role in the direction of the "Batman" trilogy of films and the much-overdone film "Inception." Nonetheless, Nolan changed the landscape of how we view the superhero genre. (Every picture that features a masked crusader will ultimately be pitted against those films.) This is more of an unpretentious project for Nolan featuring tedious camerawork, which he utilizes in a flattering manner, especially in the "fog" scene that fuels the plot and a chase scene through a logging site.

    "Insomnia" is a subtle film that indulges in the concepts of guilt and culpability. It is a suitable remake of the Norwegian original that showcases the fine talents of an aging legend in Al Pacino. The luminescent town of Nightmute and the "midnight sun" prove to be an excellent component of the film. In addition, the plot does not care to try and deceive the viewer with the identity of the murderer with other insignificant characters. This is a rather ingenious technique that should be adopted by the numerous thrillers that will ultimately grace our lives in the coming years. This film thrills, entertains, and doesn't pretend to be what it is not.

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