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INSOMNIA (2002)

SYNOPSIS:
Acclaimed veteran LAPD detective Will Dormer (Al Pacino) and his partner Hap (Martin Donovan) are sent to a small Alaskan town to investigate the nasty murder of a 17 year old schoolgirl. In the permanent daylight of Alaskaís summer, they fossick for evidence with the local cops, especially Ellie (Hilary Swank), a young officer who is a Dormer fan. Meanwhile in Los Angeles, Internal Affairs are cracking down, and Hap confesses to Dormer that heís keen to cut a deal so he can keep his career safe. When local author Walter Finch (Robin Williams) is identified as the main suspect, Dormer sets up a stakeout on a misty lakeside, during which Hap is shot dead, but Finch gets away. The shooter is thought to be Finch, but Dormer knows different. The psychological battle really gets under way when Finch contacts Dormer with a proposition.


Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Itís so rare that an American remake of a European film is worth the effort, never mind actually achieving creative excellence in its own right. Insomnia, based on the 1997 Norwegian film of the same name, is such a pleasure, relying on the inner action, the emotional chases and the bullets made of words to engage us, instead of simple physical violence. The setting is moved from Norway to Alaska, and instead of Stellan Skarsgaard, itís Al Pacino in the writerís spotlight as the clever detective with demons to wrestle. The script handles the moral issues with great finesse and the complexities of human nature are treated with comprehensive understanding. Itís not a simplistic, black and white, open and shut case, which is why itís so darned enjoyable. We waver with the wicked, and search our consciences uneasily. Al Pacino is even more impressive here than he was in The Insider, Hilary Swank is terrific as the naÔve young cop who learns some hard lessons, and Robin Williams (in the second seriously dramatic role Iíve seen him play within a single week of movie previews Ė One Hour Photo being the other) is stretched out of his usual acting skin and into something interesting. Superb work by lighting cameraman Wally Pfister (who worked with director Chris Nolan on Memento), excellent editing and a rich, dynamic score complete the filmís sense of time and place Ė and sensibility Ė perfectly. Insomnia is as satisfying as insomnia isnít; even jaded film palates will love this sophisticated, well made and edgy psychological thriller.†

Review by Louise Keller:
Now hereís a film thatís worth staying up for! A superb film that delivers much more that you expect, Insomnia is a psychological thriller with plenty of edge. I havenít seen the 1997 Norwegian version starring Stellan Skarsgard, but Christopher Nolan has created a film that is a most worthy and satisfying follow-up to his extraordinary Memento. Although the film begins routinely enough with the slick city cops flying into the remote location in Alaska, it becomes evident very quickly that they are bringing some ominous secrets with them. It feels like watching a volcano about to erupt. Thereís something rather unsettling about life without the comfort of night and its long, lingering shadows: itís a little like someone looking over your shoulder. The scene when Dormer goes out in the dead of night (but itís as light as day) to tamper with evidence, is one that is particularly haunting. The streets are bare with no-one in sight, but the township of the fictional town of Nightmute (what a great name!) is obviously asleep. Nolanís superb direction makes the most simple things seem ominous: an oscillating fan, closing a drawer, making coffeeÖ Itís a well written, intelligent script brought to life by three very different actors, who complement each other beautifully. Al Pacino is at his best as the gruff, tormented cop, haunted by his mistakes and running on a fuel of panic. Itís a gripping performance and Pacino creates an accessible, multi-layered complex character and we accept all of the shades of grey. His struggle with responsibility, survival and moral code is a journey we take with him, but itís the against-type casting of Robin Williams that is a real surprise. At first I wasnít entirely convinced, but as this seemingly very ordinary, reticent character begins to take hold, his persona takes on an extraordinarily creepy dimension. The scenes between Pacino and Williams are riveting, and the chase over floating logs on icy water is chilling indeed. I really like Hilary Swankís local cop who learns the importance of investigating the small things. As the pursued and the pursuer become reliant on each other, we become engrossed in a battle of wits, the moody score and isolated settings adding to the mix. I enjoyed Insomnia immensely Ė itís one of the best thrillers Iíve seen for some time.

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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 2
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 0

TRAILER

INSOMNIA (M)
(US, 2002)

CAST: Al Pacino, Robin Williams, Hilary Swank, Martin Donovan, Maura Tierney, Nicky Katt, Jonathan Jackson, Paul Dooley

PRODUCER: Paul Junger Witt, Edward L. McDonnell, Broderick Johnson, Andrew A. Kosove

DIRECTOR: Christopher Nolan

SCRIPT: Hillary Seitz

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Wally Pfister

EDITOR: Dody Dorn

MUSIC: David Julyan

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Nathan Crowley

RUNNING TIME: 118 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Buena Vista International

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: September 5, 2002

VIDEO DISTRIBUTOR: BVHE

VIDEO RELEASE: (Rental) April 30, 2003; (Retail) September 3, 2003







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