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Film Review: Insomnia

Al Pacino can't get no kip in Alaska...

In Insomnia Al Pacino plays Will Dormer, a veteran detective sent out to Alaska with his partner Hap (Martin Donovan) to investigate the death of a teenage girl. A suspect is quickly tracked down but during the chase Dormer shoots Hap. Since Hap was about to testify against him in an Internal Affairs scandal back home it is unclear to both Will (who has blamed the killing on the now vanished suspect) and the audience whether this incident was truly accidental. Unfortunately the suspect in question (Robin Williams) has witnessed the shooting and Will becomes locked into a relationship of mutual protection with his nemesis.

Al Pacino and Robin Williams in Insomnia This is a uniformly well acted film with Pacino, as in Donnie Brasco, managing to reign in his recent habit of equating loudness with feeling. He is ably supported by Hilary Swank as a hero-worshipping but nonetheless sharp trainee detective and the excellent Maura Tierney in a small role. It is however the performance of Robin Williams that remains the most striking in this film. He does not have as big a role as his billing would suggest but he creates a chilling impression as the sinister crime novelist, Walter Finch, and manages to overcome the constant expectation that he will either hug someone or wig out and start screaming Good Morning Vietnam.

Perhaps the most impressive aspects of the film are the use of both the astonishing Alaskan landscape (practically a character in itself) and the phenomenon of constant daylight common in Alaska at certain times of the year. As darkness and shadow were used to atmospheric effect in 1940s thrillers the constant daylight - where the only indication of night time are the chillingly empty streets - here becomes equally oppressive with Will literally unable to escape it for some much needed sleep.

A remake of a critically acclaimed Norwegian thriller of the same name director Christopher Nolan (Memento) has created a film that, despite a storyline which sags slightly in the middle, is nonetheless an intelligent and atmospheric big budget thriller.

Ciara Cloak

(bullet) Click here for an alternate review of Insomnia
(bullet) Click here for a review of Christopher Nolan's previous film Memento.

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