"I'm in the Light Here!"
Review by Ross Anthony

From the writer/director of "Memento," you might be expecting something as strikingly innovative. I was. Perhaps those expectations tainted me. In truth, "Insomnia" does have some innovation - a fresh (or at least seldom used) dimension to the now nearing cliché hotshot detective vs. psychotic bad guy genre.

It's an interesting twist and one I think "Insomnia" ought have milked more than it does by further pronouncing Hilary Swank's character's dilemma -- she's the underling cop lapping up tips from veteran "hero" homicide detective (Pacino). Mostly respectable writing takes a dip when Pacino offers a supposed "gem" of wisdom over the victim's necklace.

Swank, "I checked with the parents ... they don't know anything about the necklace, so dead-end there."

Pacino, "Did you check the local jewelry stores?"

Yes, that's ticky-tacky of me, and yes, perhaps I've seen too many cop movies. But the film has larger problems, some in structure and some in a string of three or four cop mistakes that propel the film into its real groove, ending the first act. One cop mistake I can accept, even two, but several in less than 5 minutes is asking a little much.

That said, "Insomnia" is beautifully filmed (especially for its genre), opening with some breathtaking shots of majestic Alaska. The cast is solid. The direction of independent scenes is mighty; however, as a collection of scenes, the film meanders between its powerful moments. The insomnia that afflicts Pacino seems almost extraneous to the rest of the story. And I simply can't accept that such a sharp bullheaded guy wouldn't have nailed a carpet to that freakin' window the first night of impeded sleep. Also, half of the flashbacks fall empty, failing to deliver the desired effect.

Still, its powerful moments are indeed powerful. Namely, the first meeting of Pacino and Williams - simply splendid. Anytime these two communicate, the film captivates. The fog scene nails a mood of murky danger, tension and clouded judgment. Despite the dip, the dialogue is mostly respectable. I especially liked this line, "Life is so important - how can it be so fragile?"

All in all, I would have given the film a solid B, but the ending of this mind-gaming thriller drops the smarts in exchange for action.

  • Insomnia. Copyright © 2002. Rated R.
  • Starring AL Pacino, Robin Williams, Hilary Swank, Maura Teirney, Martin Donovan.
  • Directed by Christopher Nolan.
  • Screenplay by Hillary Seitz.
  • Produced by Paul Junger Witt, Edward L. McDonnell at WB/ALcon. (c) 2002.


Copyright © 2001. Ross Anthony, currently based in Los Angeles, has scripted and shot documentaries, music videos, and shorts in 35 countries across North America, Europe, Africa and Asia. For more reviews visit: RossAnthony.com

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Last Modified: Saturday, 16-Sep-2006 08:07:55 PDT