Christopher Nolan is one of the hottest names in Hollywood after he revitalized the Batman franchise and orchestrated the stunning Dark Knight. Such a feat shouldn’t be surprising to those who’ve seen Nolan’s earlier work like Memento and Insomnia, the remake of a 1997 Norweigan thriller. Insomnia has now made its way onto Blu-ray for your viewing pleasure. Is it worth picking up again?
Insomnia stars a grizzled Al Pacino as a veteran LA cop, Hillary Swank as a young, naive, small-town Alaskan cop, and Robin Williams as an author in a decidedly darker and creepier role than we are accustomed to. Pacino and his partner, amidst an internal affairs investigation, are sent to the small Alaskan town of Nightmute to investigate the murder of a teenage girl. Early on it’s evident that the Nightmute detectives are way out of their depth and Pacino and his partner's help is sorely needed.
As the investigation continues the town takes its toll on Pacino, both mentally and physically, as Nightmute is illuminated by continual sunlight day and night. As Pacino develops into an insomniac they finally catch a break in the case. Unfortunately the lucky break isn’t so lucky for Pacino and an extremely tense game of cat and mouse develops between Pacino and Williams as they both know a secret about each other linking their futures. As the tension builds Pacino loses any chance of sleeping in Nightmute.
The film has a cracking story and the idea of outsiders coming into a small town where the sun never goes down and not realising the way that it can screw with their mind and body is thoroughly enjoyable and quite an interesting scenario. Nolan also manages to turn the scrutinizing moral eye away from the bad guy at times and onto Pacino. It forces the viewer to see Pacino in a different light and scrutinize his actions more than one normally would.
Both the effect of the insomnia and the scrutiny of Pacino's character come from Nolan’s filmmaking techniques. The film is littered with random flashes of an image and events from the film, which Pacino's character is seeing or imagining. This helps demonstrate the effect that six nights without sleep has had on him. As events become clearer or murkier in his mind the audience is also made aware of this. For instance the shooting incident is first remembered as a very misty, clouded, and accidental encounter but as the film develops and doubts emerge, the incident becomes clearer and less of an accident. These elements, the change of view and the mental and physical effects the town had, help to make Insomnia stand out as not just another cop/murder film but as an interesting psychological thriller. It’s not a perfect film — Swank's is a bit of a nothing character while the log chase scene seems really out of place — but its still thoroughly enjoyable.