This is the second feature from breakout director Chris Nolan, after making a name for himself with the amazing “Memento” in 2001 he seems to be becoming quickly the forerunner when it comes to suspense / thrillers. His distinctive style is all over this movie, we as the audience are often put into the lead roles shoes to experience the atmosphere of claustrophobic dread first hand. However unlike the mind fuck that was memento, this is far more straight forward.
Our tale begins with the death of a teenage girl and the detective duo of Al “yes I’m the man” Pacino and Hap Eckhart arriving in the small town of Nightmute to assist the local finest. As with most cop team up movies there is a local rookie who has been following the career of legend Pacino for many years and is very eager to pair with him on this one. However the visiting duo have more than one motive for lending their expertise for this investigation. They have traveled to Alaska to escape the heat of an internal affairs investigation. Worse still is that Hap is ready to cut a deal that would not only tarnish his own career but that also of Pacino.
So here we are in the depth of a murder investigation, with 2 less than squeaky clean cops, one doting rookie and soon to be one very interesting killer.
Tracking a lead to a cabin on the lakes shore the pair meet up with author “Walter Finch” played very well by Robin Williams. In the raid and confusion Williams manages to escape them but Hap isn’t so lucky. He is accidentally shot and killed by his partner Pacino. Now things seeming bad enough with the I.A, Pacino see that an accidental shooting of his partner who is about to cut a deal without him wouldn’t exactly be bought up without questions. So he does what any good – bad cop would. He pins it on Robin Williams.
Now things are doubly difficult for the screen legend. He first must capture a crazed killer while at the same time continuing to change evidence to cover up his involvement in his partners death. Soon things get worse yet again, as now Pacino is receiving phone calls from the killer, who of course knows the truth about Haps shooting. So what to do, catch the killer and run the risk of going down yourself. Or let him go and keep your life and reputation intact. Slowly Al’s conscience get the better of him and he begins to have trouble sleeping, not helped by the perpetual daylight of Alaska either I doubt. Also his young admiring rookie is closing in on the truth.
Insomnia is, as you may know the remake of a 1997 Norwegian flick. The original writers helped to co write this one making it a very good adaptation indeed. However it may seem like just another cop chasing serial killer movie, take a deeper look and scratch the surface the is a veritable feast of guilt, suspicion and the old dig at Youngs duality of man theory. The script itself is a classy piece of ink. The parallels between the 2 main character is grainy and uneasy feeling most of the time. Leaving you not really knowing who is the good guy or the bad guy. Pacino is not really that different to the killer, yes he is twisted and delightfully evil but in his own mind its all for the greater good and killing his partner was an accident. While he does consider Williams offer to let him go free in exchange for silence, he is still at core a good man. Willams too considers his crime an accident and a very low excitement role only further seems to compile this effect.
Other contrasts that are evident is the direct contradiction in the 2 cops. The student and the master. The rookie and the legend. The rookie wished she could be the type of cop Pacino is, Pacino believes that he is the type of cop she is. The lines between good and bad have never been so thin when you step outside the movie and look in. now after uncovering the truth behind Haps death she too faces a crossroads, does she follow procedure and turn ion her hero. Or does she use Pacinos own illusions that its for the greater good to let it slide. Morality is a kick in the nuts isn’t it?
Lovers of Memento will notice the same directorial style used here. Just as in last years hit he used backwards sliding chronology to place you in the protagonists shoes, here the same effect is given with the use of quick flash cuts, unstable close ups and jarring flashbacks. All in all its pretty effecting at giving you the feeling of Pacino’s growing insomnia induced madness. Also the score is bleak and overwhelming, and used in perfect moderation as to add to but not overwhelm the actors contributions.
If you like crime thrillers such as Se7en or any of the James Patterson adaptations then defiantly check out Insomnia. It’s a welcome change to the same tired cop / killer genre of flicks we have become accustom too. 8 out of 10.