Insomnia (15)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner30/08/2002

Four out of five stars
Running time: 117 mins

Christopher Nolan's impressive follow-up to Memento - head and shoulders above the usual Hollywood thriller and that rare thing, a decent remake of a foreign film.

After the stunning success of Memento, the pressure was on writer-director Christopher Nolan to deliver the goods with his third film. To that end, eyebrows were raised when it was announced that he intended to remake a little-seen Scandinavian thriller called Insomnia with a big-name cast.

However, as it turns out, it was a wise move, because Nolan has delivered a cracking thriller that may not be as original as Memento, but has more than enough to raise it above the level of the standard run-of-the-mill thriller and showcases two Hollywood actors at the top of their game to boot.

Internal Affairs

Grizzled LA cop Will Dormer (Al Pacino) arrives in Alaska with his partner Hap (Martin Donovan) to investigate the murder of a local girl. They are helped by super-keen rookie cop Hilary Swank. However, both cops are under investigation by Internal Affairs back in LA and tensions are high between the two men.

Consequently, when a tragedy occurs while in pursuit of the killer (Robin Williams in another career-changing creepy turn), Dormer finds himself with some covering up of his own to do. Unfortunately, the killer has witnessed Dormer's mistake and a deadly game of cat-and-mouse ensues...

Shouty Tendencies

The acting is terrific, particularly from Pacino, who hasn't been this good since The Insider. He manages to rein in his usual shouty tendencies and gives a convincing portrayal of a basically good man driven to the edge, a state not helped by his increasing insomnia and the fact that it never gets dark in Alaska.

Williams is excellent, too, giving a creepily effective 'straight' performance, though he's not quite as good as he is in the upcoming One Hour Photo. There's also excellent support from Martin Donovan (who really ought to be in lots more films) and Hilary Swank, who is effectively the moral centre of the film.

In retrospect, it's easy to see why Nolan chose to adapt Insomnia, since Dormer's fractured perspective of events is thematically similar to his two previous films. In addition, aside from impressive character work, Nolan also pulls off some show-stopping set-pieces, such as the pursuit across the log-flow - one of the best scenes in the film.

In short, Insomnia is one of the best films around at the moment. The plot is involving, the performances are excellent and you'll actually leave the cinema with something to think about, which is more than can be said for any other so-called thriller currently on release. Highly recommended.

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Content updated: 17/10/2017 00:40

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