Insomnia review by Yoosuf

Not Entirely What I Expected

I pretty much yawned through the trailer for this film a couple of months ago. A psychological thriller set in the land of moose and tundra, it featured scenes of Al Pacino chasing Robin Williams across rocky, river beds and floating logs. Big freakin whoop.

What this film delivered was a no non-sense trip through the psyche of a veteran detective, Will Dormer (Pacino), as he strives to unravel a brutal murder before the continuous sunlight of the Alaskan sky and resultant sleep deprivation unravels his last nerve. Not helping the situation is an Internal Affairs investigation waiting for him back at his home office in L.A., threatening to uncover some shady investigative work that could land Dormer in court and every convict he helped put away back on the street.

Even worse, Dormer learns his partner, Hap (Martin Donovan), plans to cut a deal with the I.A., saving his own hide and potentially putting Dormer on the street. As if things werent going well enough, Dormer accidentally shoots and kills Hap while tracking down their murder suspect in a dense fog. Hap actually dies believing his partner maliciously shot him, and Dormers quick mind concedes to frame the still unknown suspect, thus deflecting any blame for the shooting. Now Dormers guilty conscious, partnered with the constant daylight, nags his soul and his ability to sleep (ah, hence the name of the film). But now making matters even worse . . . well Ill stop there.

"HOOHAH!!! vs. NANO NANO!!!"

I found it a pleasure to watch Pacinos character quickly degenerate from a position of power and authority to one of utter desperation and guile. Pacino has been doing cop and detective roles for years, so theres little stretch of the imagination watching his character play chess games with evidence and profile the murderer based solely on the victims body. The film puts him front and center in almost every scene, and his aged and lively face keeps the dialogue believable and interesting.

Were seeing an interesting change in the roles Robin Williams is taking lately. While Death to Smootchy, Patch Adams, and other films have shot his dignity in the foot (okay, like he had much before), his role in this film ought to seriously remind people of the actor he can be (Dead Poets Society). I didnt think Mr. Peter Pan was going to cut it as a sinister murderer, but he surprisingly fits the glove. Hell be doing it again in an upcoming film, One Hour Photo. There were instances reminiscent of the movie Seven where we see control of the situation swap between the investigator and the suspect. The interplay between Dormer and Williams character, Walter Finch, is subtle and heavily psychological, and made members of the audience smile as they realized the direction the story was taking.

Hilary Swank plays Ellie Burr, the wide-eyed Alaskan native investigator who idolizes Dormer. Watch her character develop in this movie, cause you really see her mature as she goes about systematically unraveling the lies and cover-ups perpetrated by both Dormer and Finch. Shes good eye candy, but doesnt take off anything more than a vest or a parka. Maura Tierney (cute chick from Newsradio) plays a small but interesting role as well. Again, no skin show there (she plays a damn innkeeper too, it wouldve been trivial for her to, you know, provide at least a little room service.)

Bottomline: This movie has some action, but I wouldnt dare call it an action flick (see above: old guys running). This is a movie that wants you to think, and the superb acting facilitates your penetration into the characters minds and motives. I held my breath a couple of times, and the plot development did make me say, Ill be damned once or twice. Nudity? Sure. A flat-chested chick on an autopsy table. Thats all you get. Shooting? Yeah, a little, but nothing too flashy. My overall impression is wait for the DVD/video and rent it. The big screen and surround sound is only good for a haunting score and a few dramatic views of the gorgeous scenery (British Columbia, not really Alaska, ooh that spoiled it for ya, didnt it). But if youre sick of the kiddy action flicks (Attack of the Clones and Spiderman), Insomnia makes a nice alternative.


7 out of 10 Jackasses
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