Dir: Christopher Nolan
Star: Al Pacino, Robin Williams, Hilary Swank, Martin Donovan
Cert / Year: 15 - R / 2002
Format: DVD R1

Under the glare of the Alaska's perpetual daylight, Dormer (Al Pacino) and Hap close in on the primary suspect, reclusive novelist Walter Finch (Robin Williams). During a tense stakeout on a rocky, fog - shrouded beach, Finch slips into the mist and out of Dormer's grasp. As he makes his escape, shots ring out and Hap is killed. As he struggles to cope with his sense of responsibility and remorse over his partner's death. Dormer is forced into a psychological game of cat-and-mouse by the brilliantly malevolent Finch. The stakes escalate as Dormer contends with an unproven but perceptive local cop (Hilary Swank) and becomes increasingly entangled in Finch's web of manipulation.

Well, that's the back sleeve teaser but how does the film really stand up to the test? Look at the main players, Al Pacino and Robin Williams, and at once the interest is piqued. Robin Williams is becoming increasingly respected for his dramatic as well as comic roles and yes, he can act the part of a murderer and play it well. Playing opposite a real pro like Al Pacino must have seemed daunting to him especially in such a role - we are used to seeing Pacino in dark, gritty thrillers - but a dark side to Williams? Most definitely!

Now, bear with me a moment. One cannot imagine how disorienting it must be to suddenly have to work on a short term contract in a part of the world where for 24 hours a day it is light and then finding out, when you get there, that your contract covers maybe a week in that environment. We all know how difficult it is to try to sleep during the day when it's light outside and the sunlight is piercing the curtains. How annoying and frustrating it can be as we toss and turn. Now, transfer those feelings to those nights when having worked a full day you retire to bed with the prospect of a good nights sleep to recharge the bodies fuel cells, only to find that you cannot settle to that most primeval of needs. Now try to imagine that you have no sleep for 24 hours, go into work the next day and repeat the process, then try to comprehend how utterly exhausted you would feel if this pattern repeated itself for a number of days and nights - five in Dormer's case. Your physical body would be affected, the minds actions impaired, judgements, emotions and reasoning ability becoming dulled and in some cases you can become hypersensitive, hallucinations being both visual and auditory. We know this happens as these reactions have been reported following many trials into sleep deprivation carried out by civilian and military research units.

OK, so why this highlighting of sleep deprivation? Because it is central to one's understanding of this movie. Al Pacino - who always looks tired anyway in my opinion - playing the interloper into this strange world, is well cast in the role of Dormer. He is an embittered big city cop who's spent years on the force and has a respected solve rate. Enter into the equation the local, eager female cop who has knowledge of Dormer's past exploits but not his most recent case. That is under investigation at the onset of the movie and is the main reason for his departments acceptance for his expertise when requested by an old colleague in Alaska. This is obviously to allow a breathing space from the pressure Dormer finds himself under from Internal Affairs, thus allowing him a chance to reflect on his actions. The same female cop has developed quite a healthy respect for Dormer's investigative techniques and his finely honed instincts developed throughout his long career. She's sharp with the determination of a terrier and when she adds one and one together it most definitely makes two but how long will it be before her hero worship turns sour? Robin William's portrays the killer with the right amount of menace, madness and normality as he continues to function in the real world portraying the veneer of sanity. He fools everyone but Pacino who he taunts and draws into his web of deceit and instability which really can only end in one way.

Excellent acting by all parties with good location shots - especially the logging stunt - all I can say about that is I'm glad it wasn't me!! The story unfolds at a steady pace and has a decent plot with a novel take on the isolated 'lone' cop theme. The feelings projected of total desolation is transferred to the viewer with the skilful use of atmospheric scenery, music and acting. A well put together movie which is not only entertaining but thought provoking as well from a number of different angles. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did and I can't wait to see Robin Williams as the psychopathic 'man next door' in a Hannibal Lecter style role.


Don't close your eyes.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5

Picture 2.35:1 Anamorphic Very Good picture, especially impressive when handeling the fog scenes.
Audio Dolby Digital 5.1 Lot of talking but effective when required.
Features Deleted Scene with optional commentary.
Audio Commentary with Christopher Nolan.
Audio Commentary with Hilary Swank.
Christopher Nolan interview with Al Pacino
Making of Insomnia
An exploration of cinematography with director of photography Wally Pfsiter
A featurette on the sleeping disorder, insomnia
A gallery of theatrical posters, stills and production designs
Verdict Good presentation, good film, good extras. Overall a nice solid modern disc release.

Rating: 3 out of 5

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