Monday, November 18, 2013

Insomnia (2010)

InsomniaIn "Insomnia," directed by Christopher Nolan, Al Pacino plays Will Dormer, a Los Angeles police detective. While a controversy swirls around him and his partner, Dormer travels to a small town in Alaska to help with a murder investigation. This assignment leads him into a tension-filled cat-and-mouse game with creepy mystery writer Walter Finch (played by Robin Williams). As an added twist, the story takes place during the Alaskan summer, when there is endless daylight; amidst this inescapable light, Dormer suffers from the malady of the film's title.

"Insomnia" is a gripping, stylishly made film. The gritty action sequences have a low-tech realism that is a welcome change from the typically overdone Hollywood action thing. The performances are outstanding. Williams gets a lot of mileage out of his effectively low-key interpretation of Finch. Veteran character actor Paul Dooley brings warmth and subtle authority to his role as a small town cop, and Hilary Swank is a superb foil for Pacino in her role as an eager young cop. Pacino is excellent as the film's flawed protagonist. His performance is truly harrowing.

"Insomnia" succeeds as a suspense drama. The motif of endless daylight is well used throughout the film, and is weighted with potential symbolic meaning. More than just a good thriller, "Insomnia" also raises some relevant moral and ethical issues.

Insomnia, director Chris Nolan's second full length feature, doesn't have the same gut-wrenching and mind-bending plot twists that his feature length debut, Memento, had, but does an excellent job telling an original and gripping detective mystery.

The pleasure of Insomnia is to be found in its rich cinematography, beautiful landscapes, and excellent performances. The movie is one of the most visually compelling pieces of filmmaking I have seen in years, creating surreal juxtapositions with the vast, harsh Alaskan landscape and with close-up shots of crime scene evidence. The amazing visual landscapes (both large and small) are used effectively by director Nolan to emphasize the films themes of isolation and overpowerment, of losing oneself within ones environment and in ones choices.

Insomnia's plot will disappoint those looking for a new Memento, in that it does not have the sort of turns of action and motivation that Memento does. Insomnia works well without elaborate plot twists, however, it's mood benefits from a certain lack of ambiguity of action, although the ending is perhaps a little to predictable and cliched. Insomnia would have benefited, however, from more ambiguity of motivation while the acting is top notch, especially on the part of Robin Williams, the connections between the characters actions and their motivations and decisions is too closely drawn by the script.

Overall Insomnia is an excellent movie, and a good entry into the detective/suspense movie cannon. It suffers slightly from a couple of bad edits (in a movie filled with amazing editing and shooting) and from its desire to clearly spell out the principle characters motivations, but these minor flaws are more than redeemed by the director's excellent camerawork and sense of pacing, a strong script, and very solid acting performances. Insomnia is a must see movie, and a welcome change from the "blockbuster" summer movie scene of 2002.

Buy Insomnia (2010) Now

Update: Not sure why my review has been moved to the movie Insomnia, but the review I wrote below is for a Quad Pack DVD package that includes Insomnia, Heat, The Devil's Advocate, and Seven. Unless you are considering a purchase of the Quad package, the review below will not be much help because it deals with the transfer quality of the movies, not the movies themselves.

Okay, you probably know the movies, so no need to review them. Chances are you have interest in one or more of the movies but aren't quite sure whether to pull the trigger due to the Quad Pack packaging. I wanted The Devil's Advocate plus Heat and it was less expensive to get them packaged like this than separately. I was just suspicious of what kind of quality transfer I'd get, but what the heck, I took the risk and ordered it.

As soon as I get a blu-ray or DVD movie I pop it my HD system to see the quality of the transfer. Then I rate it from 1 to 5, 1 being perfect, 2 digital sharp, 3 marginal, 4 poor, and 5 unwatchable. I'm always suspicious of Double-Triple-Quad movie packs because the quality of the transfer to DVD is generally a lower quality. That isn't the case with this quad pack. Granted, my rating scale is subjective but I have a discerning eye. All four movies in this pack rated as a 2 for digital sharp. One of the DVD movies, Seven, even came with the DTS sound option. The other 3 were Dolby 5.1.

There are two double sided DVDs in the quad pack, a movie on each side. The only criticism of the discs is you have to have a magnifying glass to read the center rim label to see which movie you're popping in the player. Thankfully each movie is just as nice as a single disc, keepcase DVD.

Overall, this DVD quad pack is definitely worth the price.

Read Best Reviews of Insomnia (2010) Here

Having seen the 1997 Norwegian film of the same name, I was eager to see how the American-ized version of "Insomnia" would play out. Without delving too far into the comparisons that have been thoroughly detailed in prior reviews, I will say that this is one of the finer examples of how to film a remake.

This version of "Insomnia" takes place in a remote Alaskan port city, and revolves around the murder of a young girl. However, as the movie unfolds, the murder slowly becomes only a small piece of a much more expansive, provoking, intense character drama.

From a cinematographical perspective, the haunting beauty of Alaska is captured perfectly. In a way unique when compared to other films, the landscape is intertwined with the plot, further exposing the loneliness and isolation, while paradoxically highlighting its stark contrast with murder, death, and psychological demons. The sequence of the hunt/shooting amidst a thick, impenetrable fog is riveting and conveys a high level of tension, as the viewer shares in the disorientation the fog creates.

"Insomnia" is driven by characters and acting, and a strong cast is assembled. Al Pacino as expected is wonderful in his portrayal of the world-weary city cop who escapes an Internal Affairs investigation by coming to investigate this murder. In many ways, we have seen Mr. Pacino in this role on numerous occasion, and he demonstrates this with the comfortable ease in which he carries his role. However, as his sleep-deprivation caused by the long hours of daylight intensifies, Mr. Pacino takes his character to a remarkable next level, as he battles to cover his questionable investigative practices and battle the psychological demons tied to similar practices in cases being investigated by Internal Affairs back in Los Angeles. As a viewer, you can empathize with his character, while at the same time watch in amazement as he struggles to keep himself from completely unraveling.

Robin Williams is equally strong as the author-turned-murderer. Like Mr. Pacino, we have seen Mr. Williams in roles similar to this, and yet he is so good at pulling it off that you couldn't see any other person carrying such a role. His quiet, brooding character is psychologically scary; one senses that a violent, psychotic rage is bubbling just beneath his placid exterior. Also, Mr. Williams uses his comedic facial reactions to maximize the creepiness of his character. A couple of times he flashes a muted smile that subtly conveys the twisted pleasure he has in his cat-and-mouse game with Mr. Pacino's character. He is subdued, but brilliant, in this role.

Hilary Swank also shines as the young, impressionable cop who ultimately uncovers Mr. Pacino's attempts to cover up the accidental shooting of his partner. She wonderfully evolves from one overcome with "hero-worship" in working with Mr. Pacino's character to one disheartened and mildly angry when she finds that her "idol" isn't who he is cracked up to be. Ms. Swank more than adequately holds her own in sharing the screen with Mr. Pacino and Mr. Williams, which is no small feat.

The climatic ending to the film is perhaps slightly cliched in its quick tying up of loose storylines, but it plays well here. In its progression, you weren't quite sure how things were going to be resolved after the teenage suspect is arrested (falsely) for murder. One would almost have the sense that the movie could have ended with several loose ends hanging, allowing the viewer to ponder the outcome. But, there was instead the dramatic shootout, which ultimately was a satisfying resolution and conclusion to the film.

All told, "Insomnia" was a very solid, quiet, tense drama that is worth the time to see. I give it a four-star rating, and recommend it to anyone seeking a good character-driven movie that is free of overwhelming special effects and action sequences. People seeking a fast-paced drama might want to steer clear, as they might find the pacing of this film to be too slow for their tastes.

Want Insomnia (2010) Discount?

(2008 HOLIDAY TEAM)Director Christopher Nolan hit artistic and cinematic paydirt with his underappreciated, "Memento". This latest effort is different in style and story, but repeats all the same mysterious character flaws in a landscape that's as beautiful as it is foreboding.

Pacino, Williams and Swank all deliver spectacular performances and Pacino is incredible as the "respected" high ranking detective who has terrible secrets only to accidentally get in deeper. His consience keeps him 'awake' and his craggy face and tired eyesacks show it. Williams is just as creepy and frighteningly clever in his role, never reminding you that he is also a comedian. Swank plays the young, awe-struck cop with ease, who also faces a problem of conscience as she gets to know her mentor, Pacino. This secrecy and disallusionment seems to be the motif Nolan sets into the characters.

The scenery is spectacular, but also, as shown in several scenes, not to be trusted just like the main characters.

It's a tension filled, medium action film that will keep you mesmerized until the end. It doesn't matter if the ending is slightly predictable, it's the ride that matters.

DVD includes all the typical Director's commentary (very interesting), making of documentary, theater trailers, etc. Best of all is a sequence into the life of an 'insomniac'. It gives the story all that more credibility.

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