Insomnia - Nolan's Psychodrama

                           “A good cop can’t sleep because he’s missing a piece of the puzzle. A bad cop can’t sleep because his conscience won’t let him.” That was something that Detective Will Dormer once said and it’s repeated back to him by a colleague worried about his nocturnal activities in the land of the Midnight Sun.

                           One of the most breathtaking scenes in Insomnia, a remake of the 1997 Norwegian movie, occurs early as a small plane flies over the wasteland of uneven mountains and broken ice that makes up so much of the rugged terrain of America's northernmost state, Alaska. For this thriller, which unites three Academy Award-winning actors (Al Pacino, Robin Williams, Hilary Swank) with the director Christopher Nolan we're up above the Arctic Circle in the Land of the Midnight Sun.

    A teen has been brutally murdered, and suspects include her mysterious older lover. Two detectives from Los Angeles -- Will Dormer (Al Pacino) and Hap Eckhart (Martin Donovan) have come to investigate a murder, but we know it won't be that simple, not in this bleak place where the sun never sets but never really seems to shine, either.  With sunlight piercing his motel room at all hours, Will can't get any sleep, who is already suffering from sleep deprivation.

                        After grilling Kate's violent boyfriend, Will Dormer realizes he is not the killer. Searching the girl's room, he decides she must have had a secret admirer, an older man who gave her some expensive gifts. Staking out a cabin in the wilderness, they give chase to a suspect through the woods in a dense fog.  I don't want to go into specifics, so let's just say that mistakes are made and that by trying to cover them up, Will Dormer "loses his way" even worse.

                       The murder suspect(Robin Williams) sees this mistake, and starts a cat-and-mouse game with the detective Will. This is where "Insomnia" becomes fascinating, as the cop and the murderer find themselves connecting.

         A serial killer movie, that travels in the path of "The Silence of the Lambs", "Se7en," with the cops inspecting the victim's bedroom, talking to her friends, supervising the autopsy, trying to figure out the whys and hows. Yet before long, we discover that this isn't that film. First, the Alaskan setting gives a nearly surreal feel to the film. Next, neither is all good or all bad, both are intelligent but struggling with morality, and both are insomniacs.

               Playing a haggard man staggering deeper into moral and physical sleeplessness, Pacino the great actor is wide awake, giving a more powerful, nuanced performance than he has in years. Generally, this isn't one of his loud performances; he makes us lean forward and listen. He stays still, yet manages to suggest restlessness and constant mental fidgeting. With his low-key approach to the part, Robin Williams as Walter Finch manages to submerge his highly visible, volatile personality. Walter is not a ranting, over-the-top killer but a clear-eyed, logical individual.

                Hilary Swank also does good work as a young cop, who ends up being the moral center of the story. She also brings more depth to her role, with a wide-eyed naivete. The suspenseful and psychologically rich screenplay by Hillary Seitz is loosely based on the 1997 Norwegian film. The original Insomnia was an artsy mood piece. This movie has a more fleshed-out script, which wears its insecurities on its sleeve.

                    As for Nolan, the filmmaker obsessed with time uses the "midnight sun" to brilliant effect, showing days and nights slipping invisibly into one another and driving Dormer more and more out of his wits. Nolan gets a lot of mileage out of the potential for violence, yet I only count five gunshots that draw blood. 

                    Insomnia is  both a picture in the Hitchcockian tradition designed to purely entertain and tingle your senses and a thinking person’s drama that constantly defies you to ask the question, “What would you do?” Insomnia registers as a superb, intricate, emotional thriller, complete with an ending that compliments the film's intelligence, which revolves around Al Pacino's stellar performance as Dormer. 


Insomnia - Imdb 


Murtaza Ali Khan said...

A nail-biting suspense thriller with an undercurrent of darkness. Pacino and Williams are mesmerizing in their roles. Pacino arguably delivers his last grand performance while Williams shines in a evil avatar. One of Nolan's very best... a case study in human psychology.

Arun Kumar said...

@Murtaza Ali, Thanks for your comment. Yeah, Al Pacino was really great in this movie

Akshy said...

Pacino rocks in this movie:). I even liked Hilary Swank in this one:).

Unknown said...

i started watching it but don't remember why i stopped after 10 after this blog i must try watching it again !