Insomnia (2002)

03/27/2017 17:12

Film: Insomnia

Year: 2002

Director: Christopher Nolan

Writer: Hillary Seitz

Starring: Al Pacino, Robin Williams and Hilary Swank



This film begins on an airplane. It is going over glaciers on its way to a town in Alaska. There are two police officers on the plane from Los Angeles. The older one is played by Al Pacino and his partner is played by Martin Donovan. The background here is that Pacino is being investigated by Los Angeles Internal Affairs so he is being sent up here to help solve a murder case to get him away from everything for a little bit.

They are met after they get off the flight by a young detective, played by Hilary Swank. She recommends taking them to the lodge, but because it is sunny out, Pacino wants to go see the body first.

Swank takes them to the police station where we meet the chief of police, played by Paul Dooley. He seems to know Pacino and Donovan from previous. Dooley then introduces the two detectives to the other police officers that work in this town; they are played by Nicky Katt, Larry Holden, Jay Brazeau and Lorne Cardinal. Katt tries to give Pacino his report, but he wants to see the body for himself.

They go to see it and he is given all the details from the report by the coroner. The murdered woman is played by Crystal Lowe. Lowe was killed by trauma to the head and was beaten to death. The body was cleaned of evidence though, she was washed, including her hair, as well as having her nails scrubbed and clipped. She was found in the nude in a dump.

Pacino and the other cops then go to Lowe’s house. Her mother lets them up in her room and Pacino looks for evidence. He finds a ripped picture of Lowe and finds the other half in the trash, the friend who was thrown away is played by Katharine Isabelle. He knows there was something wrong there. Pacino also finds an expensive dress in the closet and a necklace. He wants them to find out where they came from, because she couldn’t afford it. Swank states that her mother said Lowe kept a journal, but it isn’t there. It is missing. Pacino then wants to go to the school to talk to her boyfriend, but Swank has to inform him that it is 10 at night. This is when we are informed that this Alaska town is so far north that there is long stretches of sunlight and darkness. They are currently in the sunny time.

Pacino and Donovan are taken to the lodge they are staying at. They meet the woman at the front desk, who is played by Maura Tierney. She is also the waitress that will take their order if they want food before the kitchen closes. Pacino and Donovan sit down to have dinner, but it turns out that Donovan has talked to IA and tells Pacino that he will be fine. Pacino freaks out on him and is not happy at the betrayal.

The police then go to the school the next morning and then meet with her boyfriend; he is played by Jonathan Jackson. He is a punk kid and is rude with Pacino. He does get out of him that he knew Lowe was seeing someone else, but he couldn’t get out of him who it was. He won’t say where he was the day she died and doesn’t give much more information either.

Lowe’s book bag is found and brought in. Pacino goes through it and tells the police to stay away from the cabin where it was found. They take inventory of what was there and he gives things to police to check out. There is a novel that is given to Holden and told him to read it and report anything important to the case. Her journal is found and Swank takes that to read. Pacino then wants them to put an APB for her bag and they are going to canvass the house. Pacino gets into it with Donovan at this point in front of Dooley.

They do this and wait for the suspect to show up. When he does, Holden accidently hits a button on the megaphone so the suspect flees. They chase him to the cabin and it turns out there is a tunnel at the bottom of it. They give chase. Pacino runs into Holden and then he is shot. Pacino keeps giving chase and sees a figure in the fog. He shoots this person and it turns out to be Donovan. He dies thinking that Pacino did this on purpose.

Swank is given control to do this investigation of the death of Donovan. Pacino pays close attention and starts to tamper with the evidence, to prevent it coming back that he did it and giving IA even more ammo to free his previous convictions. The suspect turns out to be Robin Williams who calls Pacino. He knows that Pacino can’t sleep due to the sun being out all day.

What will Pacino do? He knows that Williams killed Lowe, but Williams knows what Pacino did? Williams wants to frame Jackson with Pacino’s help to ensure that they both stay free. Will Pacino do the right thing or save himself?

I want to lead off stating that I watched this film originally before seeing the film that it was based on and I really liked it. I thought the acting was great in this film as it was one of the first serious drama films that Williams did. I thought he was great in that role. I’m a huge fan of Pacino so that also helped this film for me. Christopher Nolan directed this film and I didn’t realize that until this last viewing. I really liked that he introduced the idea of Pacino being investigated by IA and that makes when he shoots Donovan with the stakes that much higher. He already has been accused of planting evidence and Donovan was being interviewed, so that makes it even worse for him. It makes much more sense in this film why he was doing what he did. I also just love the setting, which the sun is keeping Pacino awake and that he is descending into madness because of it. Pacino looks great at looking tired and completely exhausted.

For me, one of the biggest issues I have with this film is that Nolan took a lot of the darker aspects of the original film and then took them out of this one. Some examples is there is a dog that is shot so Pacino would have a bullet that had been fired into flesh. In this version, the dog is already dead where in the original, the cop kills the dog with the shot. This version actually has the boyfriend hitting Lowe, which makes Jackson a character we don’t really like and could be okay that he goes away. The other is that the cop attempts to rape the woman at the front desk, where Nolan decided to not go that route so we still somewhat like Pacino at the end. I also didn’t like the ending at the end of this one as it almost gives Pacino redemption and more of a ‘Hollywood’ happy ending. I liked the original ending better.

I am adding this film to the horror film research due to Pacino’s character descent into madness due to insomnia. I have had a few bouts with insomnia and I will tell you that even after a night you think you are losing it and Pacino’s character goes for more than six days. This is an aspect of horror films as he slowly goes crazy and makes questionable decisions.

Now with that said, I would recommend this film. This drama/thriller is well acted, directed and has a great concept behind it. This is a rare time when I feel that the original and the remake, as this is the remake, is just as good. This one isn’t as dark, but this one expands more on the story and makes the things that Pacino do seem more realistic. If you liked the original, then I would recommend viewing this one. I definitely feel that regardless, this film deserves a viewing.


My Rating: 7 out of 10