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Insomnia (Blu-ray Review)

9 Jul, 2010 By: John Latchem

Street 7/13/10
$24.98 Blu-ray
Rated ‘R’ for language, some violence and brief nudity.
Stars Al Pacino, Robin Williams, Hilary Swank.

Christopher Nolan doesn’t make a bad movie. At least, he hasn’t yet, and critical response seems to indicate his seventh film, Inception, continues the winning streak. He certainly has to be considered at the forefront of the current generation of Hollywood directors.

The excellent mystery thriller Insomnia, a 2002 remake of a 1997 Norwegian movie, was Nolan’s third film, but his first major studio effort (and would be followed by, in order, Batman Begins, The Prestige and The Dark Knight).

Insomnia is more straightforward than Nolan’s debut projects, Following and the neo-noir classic Memento, but in its own way still deals with the motifs the director likes to play with, such as identity, state of mind, perception and skewed concepts of time.

A solid Al Pacino anchors the story as L.A. cop Will Dormer, sent to Alaska to handle a murder case while an internal affairs investigation threatens to derail his career. While pursuing the suspect, Dormer accidentally shoots his partner, who was preparing to make his own IA deal. This act was witnessed by the true suspect, a writer named Walter Finch (brilliantly played by Robin Williams). Finch calls Dormer to arrange a partnership that can clear both of them, rationally laying out the events as if he were preparing another novel.

The ever-present sunshine throws the typically cocksure Dormer off his game. Unable to sleep, his memory begins to play tricks on him and affect his judgment. His actions stir the doubts of a young cop (Hilary Swank) who idolizes the veteran investigator.

The film’s symbolism is as constant as the perpetual daylight, which is itself a metaphor, possibly for the guilt that surrounds Dormer (interesting name, Dormer — clearly derived from the Latin dormire, to sleep).

The film looks terrific in high-def, a tribute to the skills of cinematographer and frequent Nolan collaborator Wally Pfister. While it’s unfortunate the Blu-ray contains no new extras from what was included with the previous DVD release, the original extras are very good and all made the transition here. Most interesting are a conversation between Nolan and Pacino (who likes to name-drop his collaborators from the 1970s), and a time-bending Nolan commentary in which he discusses the film in the order in which he shot it.

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