With "Insomnia" Director Christopher Nolan concocts his own recipe for film noir and creates his own cinema art form, Cinema Blanc. In contrast to the eternal night of the urban environment, the landscape for "Insomnia" takes place within the twenty four daylight of rural Alaska.
Legendary Detective Will Dormer and his partner Hap (Martin Donovan) arrive to investigate the naked murder of a teen aged girl. While the eminent Dormer is hero worshiped by the locals, especially Ellie Burr (Hilary Swank), the man is haunted by a tampered case. His partner Hap is willing to confess to the department of internal affairs, but is accidentally shot by Dormer in a stakeout. The killer (Robin Williams) witnesses this and plays upon Dormer's sense of guilt mixed with ever growing insomnia.
"Insomnia" is a movie that plays with your head and probably should not be seen at night because of the adult nightmares it could induce. Director Christopher Nolan makes the most of the agoraphobic scenery , but never loses sight of the behavior of his characters.
Hilary Swank and Maura Tierney portray the external conscience of the conflicted Dormer. Robin Williams tones down his hyperactive screen persona to portray an emotional sponge. In his scenes with Pacino, you can feel Williams' character drain the lifeforce from the weary Dormer.
"Insomnia" provides another Al Pacino acting showcase. The character's battle with insomnia avoids the obvious acting choices of constant yawning. Instead he tries to get the other characters to think he has more self control than he really lets on. When his character has his personal catharsis, it is played appropriately low key. It has been over thirty years since his blockbuster debut in "The Godfather," but Pacino has not become jaded and still manages to find some truth in his performances.
Whether or not he has converted Film Noir into Cinema Blanc, Director Christopher Nolan has created his own niche with "Insomnia" and 2001's "Momento." You might not like "Insomnia" immediately after seeing it, but you will think about it afterward.
Copyright 2002 by CinemaDave