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Insomnia

August 16, 2013

Insomnia (2002)
Director: Christopher Nolan
Actors: Al Pacino, Robin Williams, Hilary Swank

Insomnia

Synopsis: Will Dormer (Al Pacino) and Hap Eckhart (Martin Donovan) are two LAPD cops seconded up to Alaska to assist in capturing a brutal killer, but also to take them away from an Internal Affairs investigation into their conduct. Dormer accidentally shoots Eckhart while chasing the killer, and that – coupled with his insomnia due to the 24 hour sunlight in Alaska – puts him in a state of distress…

Review: Insomnia finds Christopher Nolan on very similar ground to his previous breakout film and masterpiece, Memento – basing a deceptively run-of-the-mill cop thriller round an ingenious psychological theme. Where Memento transcended its genre trappings to fashion something spell-bindingly moving and intelligent (an essay on memory and narrative that Jacques Derrida would have been proud of), Insomnia is somewhat less successful. Novelistic though its idea is of locating its story in the summer Alaska setting (24 hour sunlight frames the action), and having an LAPD cop trying to crack the case while suffering from insomnia and his own frayed guilt over an impending IA case back home and the secret, accidental slaying of his partner up in Alaska, the film ultimately gets bogged down in over-demonstrating this one conceit/dialectic.

If you take exalted comparisons to Memento aside, it’s still comfortably a better-than-average genre film. Al Pacino absolutely throws himself into the role as the insomniac cop, and there is a kind of compelling genius about the shots of him staggering through the small Alaska town in the middle of night, trying to piece together the surreal situation he’s found himself in. I also quite like the notion that the cop and serial killer might strike a de facto bargain, based on each’s ability to frame the other. (August 2013)

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