Sleepwalking Into Disaster
♦Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk comes out in cinemas next Friday 21 July and so we at Tripwire have decided to rewatch and assess the nine films he has released prior to this just like we did with Quentin Tarantino and the Coen Bros. Next up is Insomnia, Nolan’s third film, which was released back in 2002
Director: Christopher Nolan
Stars: Al Pacino, Robin Williams, Hilary Swank
Only two years after the seminal Memento, Nolan returned to the noir genre with this lowkey murder mystery set up in Alaska. Pacino plays detective Will Dormer, a Los Angeles policeman who is dispatched up to the wilds of Alaska with partner Hap Eckhart, played by Martin Donovan, to investigate the brutal murder of a young teenage girl.
Unlike Memento, Insomnia, which is based on a Swedish film with a similar plot, is a far more linear affair with the odd environment that Dormer is exposed to, where it never gets dark in the summer, playing havoc with his sleep patterns. Dormer is a detective with a number of dark secrets and when he kills his partner by mistake, this triggers off a series of plot dominoes which only come to an end at the film’s conclusion.
Williams as the film’s killer Walter Finch, who becomes Dormer’s accomplice in hiding the truth behind the real cause of his partner’s death, is very good here and you forget just how sinister and accomplished a straight actor the comedian was, lending pathos and emotion to the role. It is also the best film that Pacino has been in for quite some time with him reigning in his more flamboyant style. Swank is serviceable as Pacino’s police partner although arguably she has the least to do of the principal players.
Insomnia isn’t quite as compelling as Memento purely because it is far more of a conventional thriller but it has a clever script, some solid performances and a wonderfully widescreen setting which does lend it a tone and feel all of its own. With his third film, Nolan proves that he has the capability to compete with older, more established Hollywood directors and beat them at their own game. By this point, Nolan has created a style for himself as a filmmaker and its story covers much of the same thematic ground that Nolan returns to time and time again.
As part of his canon as a director, there is much to recommend about Insomnia. If only we could award half stars, as this film is a three and a half star movie.