Insomnia (2002)

Directed by Christopher Nolan

I’m at an advantage in that I’ve never seen the original, Erik Skjoldbjærg movie Insomnia. The truth is, I knew almost nothing about the Christopher Nolan film of Insomnia. I picked it up as a PV disc (previously viewed). Well, was I ever pleasantly surprised.

Of recent films, it’s one of the best to be released on DVD this year. It’s exciting, intriguing and intelligent. It’s shot beautifully, skilfully constructed, and gets great performances from its entire, well-chosen cast.

It’s very mysterious. While you know what the surface story is about, a murder and a cat-and-mouse game between the killer and a detective, you’re never quite sure what the undercurrents are about, not till the very end. And the movie is about those undercurrents.

While their department is undergoing an internal investigation back in L.A., two detectives are sent to Nightmute, Alaska, to help solve a murder case. While there, they set a trap for the killer.

He shows up but escapes in a heavy fog.

During the confusion of the chase in the fog, one detective (Al Pacino as Will Dormer) shoots and kills the other (Michael Donovan).

It appears to be an accident, but as the movie unfolds this becomes unclear.

Detective Dormer’s troubles then begin to snowball: the investigation in L.A., the investigation into the shooting of his partner, and a growing relationship with the killer, Robin Williams.

The killer appears to know some of Dormer’s secrets so he has a power position, which he uses. He plays with Dormer, trying to get the detective to help him deflect guilt in the murder he’s committed.

As all this is going on, Detective Dormer can’t sleep. He’s far north, and it’s in the late spring of the year, so it is daylight almost constantly. Struggle as he might, he can’t evade light; he can’t find sleep.

He starts unraveling and Pacino plays it dead on, showing us in his face the stress and anxiety the detective is experiencing.

The movie is about guilt. The light acts as a kind of spotlight in the film. No matter what Dormer does, he’s anxious he’s going to be found out.

Wonderfully constructed, played and executed, Insomnia is a very good movie.

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