Friday, July 21, 2017

Movie Review: Insomnia

Christopher Nolan takes on a noir detective story with a unique location. Detective Will Dormer (Al Pacino) arrives in Alaska, tired but ready to work. He and his partner Hap Eckhart (Martin Donovan) are greeted by local policewoman Ellie Burr (Hilary Swank). The Los Angeles detectives are investigating the murder of a young high school girl Kay Connell (Crystal Low) but Dormer is disoriented by the daylight in the middle of the night. They stay at a hotel run by Rachel Clement (Maura Tierney). Hap is being investigated by Internal Affairs and is thinking of confessing which would incriminate Will. The next morning on little sleep, Will and Hap head to the high school to interrogate Kay's boyfriend Randy Stetz (Jonathan Jackson) who is uncooperative during the questioning. He does admit that Kay was seeing someone else but he doesn't know who it is. 

Will treats Ellie as a protege schooling her on the procedure and the little things of an investigation. When Kay's bookbag is found in a cabin, it provides clues and a trap for Will to devise. Dormer continues to threat over the IA investigation, doubting his own tactics. When the amateur Alaskan police botch the stakeout alerting the suspect, a foot chase ensues through the cabin and fog. A policeman is shot but Will Dormer pursues the suspect across slick rocks and fires into the mist possibly shooting and killing his partner Hap. Overcome with grief, Will is unable to sleep and keeps reflecting back on his previous shortcuts he took to nab awful criminals. He works to cover up the possibility that he shot his partner as he becomes increasingly dazed. Noises disturb him and he hallucinates his partner giving him accusatory looks. The killer calls him up on the phone and reveals that he knows of Will's guilt in killing his partner. Ellie suspects that something isn't quite right with Will's account of his partner's shooting. Will confront Tanya Francke (Katharine Isabelle) taking her to the dump where Kay's body was dumped after spooking her by playing chicken with a truck. Tanya mentions Kay's secret lover who promised the young victim all sorts of things. The killer calls him again at the station taunting him about what he knows and Will offers to meet him. He deciphers the clues and heads to the house of Walter Finch (Robin Williams), a mystery novel author.

Will chases Walter, pursuing him across floating logs but Will trips and slips under the logs, scrambling to surface and catch a breath. Walter escapes and arranges a meeting with Will when Will returns to Walter's house. Ellie also discovers the trail of the mysterious author with whom Kay was infatuated. Will meets Walter on a ferry and bargains with him to stay silent about his partner to help him avoid the investigation. Walter records the whole conversation as something to hold over Will. In a phone call, Walter confesses to the murder and Will grills him hard in the interrogation but Walter gives the local police enough to search Randy's house. Will hurries to Randy's house to search for the murder weapon before the police can find it because he doesn't want Watler to get away but can't find it.

The police find the gun and arrest Randy. Exhausted from six nights of no sleep, Will confronts Walter again, destroying his recording of the conversation on the ferry. Walter knows Will can't turn him in or risk advancing the investigation by Internal Affairs. Ellie investigates the shooting of Detective Eckhart finding a bullet from Dormer's backup weapon. Will confesses his crime to Rachel and asks her what she would. He decides to take down Walter, driving out to Walter's lake house just as Ellie heads there too. Will can barely drive he's so tired and Walter hits Ellie over the head when she comes in his house. Will breaks in to help Ellie, and they start a shootout with Walter. Eventually, Will is shot but kills Walter in the process. Ellie attempts to destroy the evidence but Will stops her not wanting her to take the same path he did. 

Insomnia is a great film and shows how Christopher Nolan can just tell a simple, yet exciting, story. Al Pacino does a great job slowly losing his mind from lack of sleep. Robin Williams is menacing turning from comedy to thriller in a brilliant performance. Hilary Swank holds her own amongst these veterans and helps tie the mystery together. For a detective thriller, I think this is one of my favorite. Christopher Nolan also adds another dimension making the viewer feel the effect of not sleeping. I actually saw this film earlier this year but had no problem sitting through it again. 

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