By Shawn McKenzie 05/26/2002
Warning! Minor spoilers!
I really think that directors should have in their contracts creative control over movie trailers. Why? The trailer for Insomnia is completely misleading!
This is mainly in the case of Robin Williams character. The creepy line at the end of the trailer, where Williams' character Walter Finch says "There'll be time to sleep when you're dead," is no where in the movie! Plus, the trailer makes the Finch character look like a bloodthirsty serial killer. He is a killer in the movie, but he is not a serial killer, and his murder doesn't appear to be intentional (or so he claims.)
Other than the trailer, did I like the movie? Let's just say don't be surprised during that early February morning next year when the Oscar nominations are announced that Insomnia gets a few. There are great performances in this movie by Al Pacino and Robin Williams. Hillary Swank did a great job with the part she was given. Then there was the director Christopher Nolan. He directed, in my opinion and many others, the best movie of 2001, Memento. I have to agree with one critic I read (Mark Caro in the Chicago Tribune) that Memento was a great thriller for film geeks and Insomnia is a great thriller for the general audience.
Insomnia proves that Nolan is just a great story-teller. It is a remake of a 1997 Swedish film of the same name directed by Erik Skjoldbjærg. It tells the tale of Will Dormer (Al Pacino), a detective from Los Angeles sent to Nightmute, Alaska to help solve the murder of a teenage girl. While trying to track down the killer, he accidentally shoots and kills his partner Hap Eckhart (Martin Donovan.) Already plagued by an I.A.B. investigation back in L.A., Dormer decides to cover up his involvement in the shooting. One problem is, the killer witnessed the shooting and decides to blackmail him so he won't be busted for the girl's murder. Dormer then spends the rest of the movie trying to cover up his murder and bust the killer at the same time. How can he do it? Very interesting question.
I did see the original movie, and I liked Nolan's version much better. I felt the Nolan version explored the motivation behind the crimes and the cover-ups much further than the original. Also, I felt that the performances in the new version were much better, especially in the case of the Dormer character (the character is named Jonas Engström in the original.) Both movies take place in a location where daylight is 24/7 for months (in the original it takes place in a small town north of Norway), so if you are not used to it, it is really hard to sleep. Pacino actually makes it look like he has been up for days and just isn't thinking straight. The actor who played Jonas (Stellan Skarsgard) just looked bored by the end of the movie. I could list off many other things that make the Nolan version superior (like making Pacino's character more sympathetic and the different endings for both movies), but that would take too long for me to write and way too long for you to read. I do recommend seeing the original version though, just to see the different interpretation of the story.
Just so you know, I have no problems with foreign language films. If it is a good movie, I enjoy the heck out of it. As a matter of fact, I liked Abre los Ojos (Open Your Eyes), the original version of last year's Vanilla Sky, much better than its Cameron Crowe-directed remake. In the case of Insomnia, Christopher Nolan was just able to take an interesting story and make it better. I have to give Nolan respect for that. Memento was indeed not a fluke!
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