Thursday, December 20, 2012


(May 2002, U.S.)

First THE INSIDER and now INSOMNIA. You just gotta love an Al Pacino double feature!

You're heard me say time and time again that American remakes of foreign subtitled films are usually not worth a damn! In my own defense, I didn't know there was an original 1997 Norwegian film of the same name with Stellan SkarsgÄrd until AFTER I'd already gone to see the 2002 film. As soon as I did find out, I immediately went out and rented the original film to see how the two compared to each other. As I said, American remakes are usually not worth shit - that's rule one! Rule two is that there's always the occassional exception to rule one! Strike me down for saying this, but in my opinion, Christopher Nolan's (one of the best directors of the 21st Century, thus far) telling of this riveting psychological thriller does, indeed, outshine the original foreign film. There, I said it! Forgive me!

The state of Alaska is not a place I've seen too much of in film. INSOMNIA immediately grabs me with the beauty and the solitude of it's grand mountains and great lakes. Yes, I could see myself there. Detective Will Dormer (played by the great Al Pacino) definitely CANNOT see himself there. At the time he arrives to help solve the murder of a young high school girl, this part of the world is experiencing a time of year when the sun doesn't set for months. Hence Dormer's insomnia because the sunlight is keeping him awake during the night. But he's also kept awake at night suffering from twisted feelings of guilt, fear and regret over the supposedly accidental shooting of his partner Hap Eckhart (played by Martin Donovan). Was it an accident? Hap was prepared to make a deal with Internal Affairs to save himself and end up harming Will and all of the good police work he's done in the process. Now let's add to the fact that the shooting was witnessed by the murderer himself. This is the foundation for blackmail and the inevitalble connection and relationship that takes place between criminal and cop.

But now let's really talk about what's key here in this film - funny man Robin Williams as a brilliant killer? Well, why not! I mean, when you consider a man of his comic talents and insane personality, to turn the tables to the dark side and portray a man of cold-blooded murder seems to make perfect sense. Robin Williams is surely NOT funny in INSOMNIA, but what he does give us is a level of phychological intensity and diabolical cunningness that serves well to match the wits and skills of an experienced Los Angeles cop like Will Dormer. It's cat-and-mouse antics along the way and in the end, as you'd expect in any film like this, the bad guy dies. So does the good guy, too, in this case.

Al Pacino, as always, is brilliant to watch and listen to in nearly any film he's in. Disappointingly, though, because the film is also about an insomniac, we're forced to look at a physically-depleted Pacino who constantly looks as though he's about to collapse. This is not exactly the cop who's full of energy and vitality as in SERPICO (1973) and HEAT (1995). But as I said, the physical appearance goes with the role he's playing. Sadly, one also has to admit that Al Pacino is getting older. Hilary Swank as the town officer assisting Dormer in the case is as acceptable a role as any other mundane, trivial character in a police thriller. She's merely the Jedi knight in training to Pacino's Obi-Wan Kenobi.

By the way, if you look it up, you'll find that the word DORMER is defined as a chamber or a place of sleep. Coincidence or just plain freaky??

Favorite line or dialogue:

Fred Duggar: "What has two thumbs and likes blowjobs? (points to himself with both thumbs) THIS guy!"

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