The Attempted Review of Insomnia

Posted by WhenYourGodGivesYouLemons On 12:47 AM

What It's All About
After Christopher Nolan had dazzled audiences with the brilliant Memento he followed up that film with Insomnia. Starring Al Pacino as a veteran LA cop, Hillary Swank as a young naive small town Alaskan cop and Robin Williams in his freakiest role to date, and not the good type of freaky. Pacino and his partner are sent to the small Alaskan town of Nightmute to investigate the murder of a teenage girl amidst an internal affairs investigation into their own department. Upon arrival Pacino and his partner display some much needed wisdom on the case as the Nightmute detectives are way out of their depth. As the investigation continues the town begins to take its toll on Pacino, in Nightmute the sun only goes down in the winter and Pacino is slowly turning into an insomniac. This insomnia is worsened when they finally catch a break in the case. The girls backpack is discovered. Seeing it as an opportunity to catch the killer they set up a trap involving the backpack. Things don't go to plan and two officers end up being shot but only one of them by the killer. Now Pacino and the killer, who we discover is Robin Williams, supposedly have something in common; they didn't mean to kill. What begins is an extremely tense game of cat and mouse between Pacino and Williams as they both know each other has committed a crime and their futures are now linked and any chance Pacino had of sleeping in Nightmute are dashed by images of what he has done.

What it Did Well... I really liked the idea behind the story. These outsiders come into this small town where the sun never goes down and they don't realise the way that it can screw with their mind and body. I also liked the way Nolan turned the scrutinizing moral eye away from the bad guy at times and onto the good guy, Pacino after he killed his partner. Pacino was seen in the same light as a killer, desperate and willing to do anything not to be caught, and was then confronted with a series of choices which would determine whether we see him as a good guy or bad guy. Each one of these choices was extremely hard for Pacino as they ultimately affected the outcome of the movie.This change of view and the mental and physical effects of the town of Nightmute made Insomnia stand out as being not just another cop/murder film but as an interesting psychological cop thriller.

Pacino and Williams were brilliant as well. For me the best bits of the film were their conversations. They were just filled with so much tension as they shared this secret, uneasy association and you were always waiting for something to break the status quo. Williams was easily my favourite part because he was just so creepy and freaky that he made your skin crawl. I've always said that comedians play serious roles the best because it is so unexpected and can be quite shocking. Seeing the look on Williams' face when he decide who his next victim was was just chilling, seeing him punch someone was shocking, seeing him reason and explain that he didn't murder the girl made your skin crawl because, like Pacino could, the audience could tell he was pure evil. In my opinion those where some of the most unnerving scenes when Williams was explaining how he happened to kill the girl. He seemed so calm as he was speaking and almost sad that it had happened but through the recreation of the incident on the screen and Pacino's critique of his actions you knew he was far more violent and far more likely to have enjoyed what he had done than he let on. Also Williams is a crime writer in the film and he treats the whole experience like one of his books, he actually thinks up ideas for a new book based on his crime, so the whole experience seems almost entertaining to him which just adds to the creepiness. 

The way Nolan shot the film was great as well. The film is littered with random flashes of an image and events from the film which Pacino is seeing/imagining. This helps demonstrate the effect that 6 nights without sleep has had on Pacino. As events become clearer or murkier in his mind the audience is also made aware of this through Nolan's techniques. For instance Pacino first sees the incident when he shot his partner as a very misty, clouded and accidental encounter but as he starts to doubt his judgment the incident becomes more clear and less of an accident.

What it Didn't... I thought Hillary Swank's character was a bit of a nothing character for me. She didn't really add or take away from the film, she kind of just went through the motions in the background. Also on the whole the Nightmute cops seemed a little too simpleton/backwater. They didn't pose a threat, at all, and didn't question whatever was placed in their lap. Williams hands them an alternate suspect and they immediately go after him, surely they would have developed some cop insticts which would have said "okay why is he giving us all these details on this guy when we haven't even mentioned him?"

Whilst I really liked the story, why were 2 ordinary cops from LA sent to Alaska to help an investigation? Fair enough if they were FBI or from a bigger city in Alaska because you could understand why they would be sent there but LA? It just seemed a little weird and a bit of a stretch. Inter department relationships in cop shows/movies never seems that great so why would two departments in completely different states be so chummy?

Finally in a few parts, I'm not sure whether it was intentional or just my TV, but it was really hard to hear what people were saying and in the scene where Pacino shot his partner I didn't even realise it was his gun that went off. Like I said I'm not sure if it was my TV but it meant you really had to focus otherwise you'd end up in one of those situations where you are like "what did that guy say?" "what did he say when I asked what he said?"

Memorable Moment
For me the most memorable moments in the film were the ones involving Williams. When he punches Hillary Swank the build up makes it so unexpected. He is just looking through some things in his house when Swank discovers a piece of the girls clothing. Williams couldn't have known she'd seen it but he just turns around and cracks her in the face without batting an eyelash. You are left sitting there going "wait, did he just punch her? What the hell as if he just punched her!"

What it All Means... Insomnia is a brilliant film and further proof that one, Christopher Nolan should be appreciated for his work outside of The Dark Knight and two Robin Williams should be appreciated for his work outside of comedy. With a terrific story, some great acting and nice touches by the director it's a great, albeit a little creepy, viewing experience. I'm giving Insomnia 8 out of 10.  

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