It seems only fitting that I am the one reviewing Insomnia. After all, I am no stranger to insomnia, and me typing this sentence in the middle of the night might speak for that. Basically, insomnia is not fun. It’s not courteous. And in Al Pacino’s case it makes things quite a bit more difficult.
Insomnia takes place in Nightmute, Alaska; a small, quiet town that has been turned upside down by the violent murder of a teenage girl. Trying to avoid Internal Affairs annoying investigation, homicide detectives Will Dormer (Al Pacino) and Hap Eckhart (Martin Donovan), fly up from Los Angeles to help their former colleague solve this case. Dormer ends up running the show, with youngster cop Ellie Burr (Hilary Swank) as well as a few others in tow. Quickly changing the pace of the investigation, Dormer and Eckhart make movement towards solving the case until the cornered murderer escapes in the fog leaving Eckhart dead. Dormer, knowing that he is to blame as well as the fact his partner was ready to cooperate with Internal Affairs covers up the accident and pins it on the man already wanted for murder.
Due to the overwhelming amount of light, twenty-four seven sunshine, Dormer begins struggling with insomnia and what had seemed to be a simple case becomes more and more complex due to his mistakes and his lack of rest. When Walter Finch (Robin Williams) calls Dormer one night to explain what he did was an accident, the two men end up on a journey that could end with numerous outcomes. Trying to find their freedom, they both bargain with their beliefs and the outcome ends with nobody winning.
Christopher Nolan’s Insomnia is just as psychologically thrilling as the many other movies he has put together. Insomnia succeeds due to Nolan’s ability to take a story, give what seems like too much information and then pull back leaving the audience on the edge of their seats wondering what will happen next. Nolan’s use of suspense takes a cop drama and turns it into a murder mystery. His love of complex characters and exploring the psychological realm takes the now murder mystery and makes it a suspenseful, complex drama filled with plenty of emotion and twists.
Insomnia’s success isn’t solely based on Christopher Nolan, as his cast pulled their weight making their characters intriguing and entertaining. Pacino’s Dormer is the veteran cop who everybody wants to win, but then leaves audiences struggling with his dark secrets. Pacino always makes for an interesting cop, and an even more interesting cop with a dark side and he replicates what he has done so many times here in Insomnia. Robin Williams, although not present until nearly the halfway point, delivers a knockout performance. His portrayal of a confused, happy yet dark man is incredibly creepy and spot on. The man, once loved as Mork, shows off another deeply psychotic role without doing anything physical to make one see his dark side.
The rest of the cast does a decent job as well, from the big supporting roles of Swank to the minor roles of the individuals in the town that help lead a path to the truth (or away from the truth). Each aspect of the movie is simply stunning with Nolan’s use of the surroundings making the movie that much better. The wide angle shots of Alaska followed by close-ups of complex characters adds another element to Insomnia, making the movie that much more enjoyable.
Insomnia is pure Christopher Nolan. Complex characters, plot twists, hidden facts and strong acting meshes Insomnia in with the better movies in the genre of suspenseful crime dramas. Once again Nolan shows off why the new Batman movies were so successful and why he is becoming a household name.
When it’s a catalogue title you can never be quite sure on how it is going to turn out. Certain studios might trend one way or another but truthfully, a guarantee of a good catalogue transfer is as much as a lock as all those twi-hards actually understanding what decent cinema actually is. Good news for Nolan fans is Insomnia hits on the good transfer side; and not just the good but the very good.
The 1080p VC-1 video transfer is absolutely stunning. From the opening sequence of the plane flying over the icebergs all the way to the close of the movie on the foggy deck, Insomnia has a three-dimensional look to it that benefits the viewing experience. The image isn’t perfect the whole way through, as it does have its moments that aren’t as strong as others. With the scene by the cabin, for example, there is a flatness to the image as the detail seems to fade.
Going with the negative first allows me to finish the video portion with the high notes. The video is simply stunning, and as mentioned, has a three-dimensional feel throughout. The detail is very strong and the beautiful Alaskan backdrop is on full display. Colors look amazing, with greens and blues being the most prominent behind neutral colors. The style Christopher Nolan has his movies shot in are perfect for Blu-ray with a rich, huge scenic shot one-second and a close-up the next that is clean with plenty of detail and amazing color.
The audio was a plus as well, with the score opening across all parts of the room thanks to the English DTS-HD 5.1 track. All five speakers are used, and used frequently. With the past few reviews I felt as if something was wrong with my rear speakers, but Insomnia seemed to be the cure for them. The center channel works nicely, presenting all conversations crisp and clear without interruption from the plenty of other sounds. The subwoofer was a pleasant addition, striking when the moments were right. Overall, the audio and video on the presentation felt more like a new release as opposed to a nearly ten year old movie.
Insomnia comes with enough extras to keep one entertained for a while. The commentaries are quite intriguing and the short, standard definition featurettes are informative and entertaining as well.
Insomnia is a strong film, flat out. Christopher Nolan shows off his abilities again with this suspenseful masterpiece and both Al Pacino and Robin Williams give great performances. The blu-ray is just as awesome, with video and audio that rivals new releases. The extras are a decent stack but they are all in standard definition. Fans of the movie shouldn’t hesitate, fans of Nolan could bet on a safe blind buy and everybody else should at least give it a rent.