Tuesday, January 5, 2010
Christopher Nolan's 'Insomnia' is not very densely layered as far as the plot goes. But, as expected from a Nolan project, the psychology of the characters is explored in great and earnest depth. The plot centers around our somewhat dodgy protagonist, an LAPD cop named Will Dormer (Al Pacino), who's gone to Alaska to investigate the murder of a 17 year old girl. Assisting is fellow LAPD detective Hap Eckhart (Martin Donovan) and a local officer named Ellie (Hilary Swank), who has a great admiration for Dormer. 'Insomnia' takes a big turn early when Dormer accidentally shoots down Hap in a raid of the murderer's home. Blaming the death on the killer, Dormer escapes accountability. But when the killer (played by Robin Williams in an excellent, though at times unconvincing performance) contacts Dormer saying he witnessed the death of Hap, Dormer knows he's in trouble. It's a genius setup and the movie, though not very high on big surprises, maintains a steady level of suspense throughout. Yet the real strength is Pacino's character and the burden of guilt he faces. It's what makes the movie so much better than the run-of-the-mill murder mystery. The title refers to Dormer's inability to sleep in Alaska, where it's always light out. It adds a eerie, almost creepy quality to the movie as we see Dormer twist and turn at night and then look almost dead the next day. 'Insomnia' is plagued by a typical shoot 'em up finale which sort seemed thrown in to make up for the lacking twist that one might have expected. But thankfully the rest of the movie is good enough to compensate for the silly finish.