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Insomnia (15)



Review by: Jack Foley | Rating: Two

DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: 180 Degrees: A conversation with Christopher Nolan and Al Pacino (17 mins); Day for Night: Making of Insomnia (7 mins); 'In The Fog' with cinematographer Wally Pfister; 'In The Fog' with production designer Nathan Crowley; Commentary by Christopher Nolan; Commentary by Hilary Swank, Nathan Crowley, Dody Dorn, Wally Pfister and Hillary Seitz; 'Eye Wide Open' - featurette on insomniacs (7 mins); Additional scene (with/without commentary); 'From The Evidence Room' - stills gallery with music.

BRITISH director Christopher Nolan made Hollywood sit up and take notice with the acclaimed Memento, which came after the black-and-white, low-budget Following, and his latest, Insomnia, is further evidence of an exceptional talent.

The movie is a cracking psychological thriller which grips from the off, boasting some mesmerising star turns and a seat-gripping moral conundrum (as every great thriller should!).

It finds Al Pacino’s respected LAPD detective, Will Dormer, travelling to a small Alaskan town with his partner (Martin Donovan) to investigate the murder of a 17-year-old girl, while trying to escape the unwanted attention of an Internal Affairs investigation.

Things take a turn for the worse, however when, during a bodged stakeout in hostile terrain, Dormer accidentally shoots and kills his partner, before being drawn into a deadly game of cat-and-mouse with the primary suspect, novelist Walter Finch (Robin Williams), who saw what happened.

The ensuing battle-of-wits finds Pacino attempting to outsmart Williams without tarnishing his reputation, while fending off another investigation, led by Hilary Swank’s unproven, yet perceptive, local cop, who idolises the career veteran.

Pacino, as ever, is on tip-top form, shying away from some of the histrionics that have crept into recent performances.

His angst-ridden detective, deprived of sleep because of the region’s perpetual sunlight, and struggling to cope with his increasingly impaired judgement, is a virtual masterclass in mounting despair, effortlessly conveying the massive psychological pressure his cop is forced to work under.

And he is more than matched by Williams’s calculated turn as the cold-hearted killer, in a role which marks a welcome break away from the sentimental slush of recent projects.

The actor’s controlled restraint is the perfect foil to Pacino’s fiery cop and the scenes between the two are electric - whether it’s Pacino revealing that ‘you’re as mysterious to me as a blocked toilet is to a plumber’ or turning the tables on his tormentor in an interrogation room, you can practically feel the sparks.

A lot of the credit for this must go to Nolan and Dody Dorn’s exceptional editing, which serve to bring out the best in Hillary Seitz’s screenplay (which is based on the 1997 Norwegian thriller of the same name).

Nolan’s use of location is also first rate and as much a character as those which populate it. The snow-capped mountains, log-strewn lakes, and spewing waterfalls are as breathtaking as they are dangerous, all possessing an unseen threat beneath the surface, and all contributing to and enhancing the expertly-realised set pieces (from a chase across the logs, to the opening shot of a seaplane flying over the vast glaciers).

The same visual flair and use of flashbacks that were defining trait of Memento are also here in abundance, serving to create a remake which feels original and exciting (much as Steven Soderbergh, who serves as executive producer with George Clooney, did with Ocean’s Eleven).

Nolan, however, opts for a far more sinister path and has managed to find darkness in a place which, on the surface, has none. The subsequent journey is one of the most thrilling mainstream rides of the year which truly recaptures the magic of movies.

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