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movie reviewmovie reviewmovie reviewvideo review out of 4 Movie Review: Insomnia

Starring: Al Pacino, Robin Williams
Director: Christopher Nolan
Rated: R
RunTime: 115 Minutes
Release Date: May 2002
Genre: Suspense

*Also starring: Hilary Swank, Maura Tierney, Jonathan Jackson, Martin Donovan, Paul Dooley, Jay Brazeau

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Review by Steve Rhodes
3 stars out of 4

INSOMNIA, the second major film by Christopher Nolan, is a most ironic movie -- but not in the way you might expect. After making one of the most unconventional thrillers in motion picture history (MEMENTO), Nolan decided to remake the quite unusual 1997 Norwegian film INSOMNIA, which starred Stellan Skarsgård. The irony is that Nolan's version is a completely conventional, big budget Hollywood thriller filled with star power, including Oscar winners Al Pacino (SCENT OF A WOMAN), Hilary Swank (BOYS DON'T CRY) and Robin Williams (GOOD WILL HUNTING). I expected Nolan to magnify the original's unconventional aspects, not to diminish them. Don't get me wrong, the result is solid entertainment from start to finish, but it is certainly nothing worth putting on best of the year lists as MEMENTO definitely was. (MEMENTO was my top pick last year.)

Basically a one man picture, it stars Al Pacino as Will Dormer, a cop who can't get enough sleep. Both versions of INSOMNIA were set in a land where the sun never sets in summer. This time the action happens in a breathtaking Alaska. Dormer and his L.A. detective partner, played by Martin Donovan (HOLLOW REED), have been sent way up north to help investigate the murder of a teenage girl. Although it may not appear to be the work of a serial killer, Will says that he thinks that other murders will follow. Probably the best part of the original was the way that insomnia dominated the entire story; with Skarsgård making it so palpable that you began to feel downright woozy. This time, the impact of the insomnia isn't really emphasized until close to the end.

Hilary Swank plays Ellie Burr, a cop who has worshiped Will from afar and is happy to tag along in this investigation. Before this murder, she has been assigned to nothing but misdemeanors. Since Will is something of a Sherlock Holmes, with a dash of Serpico thrown in to spice up the mix, Ellie is elated about watching the master in action.

Robin Williams plays Walter Finch, a local writer who was a friend of the murdered girl. His performance is effective but a tad bland.

The tense and atmospheric film has plenty of twists, although many of them are easy to guess. The treat is watching veteran actor Pacino at work. There aren't many like him. As you leave, however, you'll likely be thinking more of Nolan than Pacino and hoping that Nolan returns to his unconventional roots for his next picture.

INSOMNIA runs 1:55. It is rated R for "language, some violence and brief nudity" and would be acceptable for most teenagers.

Copyright © 2002 Steve Rhodes

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