Directed by Christopher Nolan
Running Time: 118 mins
Insomnia's director, Christopher Nolan, gained international acclaim for Memento, which was released two years ago. The style in that film seems have escaped him in this much more conventional thriller.
Will Dormer (Pacino), a veteran LAPD detective, and his partner Hap Eckhart (Martin Donovan) are sent to a remote Alaskan town to investigate the brutal murder of a seventeen year-old girl. It's summer time and the sun never sets in Alaska. The case is disturbing enough, but back in LA Will and Hap are under investigation by Internal Affairs. With both issues haunting him, Will cannot get any sleep in his light-filled room. When Hap is killed as they pursue the young girl's murderer, Dormer's lack of sleep clouds his judgement in regard to everything.
Naturally enough Will's insomnia is the vital factor in this murder mystery thriller. The problem is that it is too central for us to suspend disbelief. I have no problem accepting the delirium that sleep deprivation can induce, but Will's lack of sleep over several nights leads him to the
most appalling irrationality and illogical decisions. His insomnia allows an altogether different personality to emerge. If Dormer's reactions to insomnia are typical we should be very worried indeed about millions of nursing mothers.
I just kept wondering why Dormer doesn't ask the Lodge to put up some curtains, or buy some eye pads, or swallow a sedative? Too sensible for this story.
Insomnia brings together three Best Actor winners: Pacino gives an appropriately somnambular performance; Hilary Swank perfectly judges the role of the local cop who starts to see the underbelly of her policing hero from LA; and Robin Williams, who never cracks a joke or uses a funny voice, is icy cold as Finch, Dormer's number one suspect. This film is
magnificently shot with Alaska playing a spectacular supporting role.
The values of Insomnia are solid, hinging around whether the ends justify the means. Screenwriter Hillary Seitz's argues they don't, "You don't get to pick when you to tell the truth." And the fog in this film is a metaphor for finding one's way. Insomnia shows how easily small compromises throw us off course and enable us to get hopelessly lost.
At just under two hours, Insomnia is too long and too laboured, but all the
Pacino/Swank/Williams fans will want to see it anyway. There are enough thrills to ensure that we don't doze off, but not enough intrigue for it to cause us any sleepless nights.
Richard Leonard SJ