Monday, May 21, 2012

Insomnia (2002) - Review

There's nothing more disappointing than seeing a cool premise for a movie go to waste.  Being that the name of the movie is called Insomnia, you might think that the illness factors pretty heavily into the plot.  You also might think that there's some kind of thematic significance or maybe some reveal at the end to tie it all together nicely.  I mean, why would the movie be called Insomnia if it has such a negligible effect on the script?  I don't know.  Maybe in an attempt to give the last line of the movie some weight and resolve, but if that's the case then it certainly failed.

Don't get me wrong, this movie isn't bad.  Not really.  It's certainly competent.  It has that distinct Christopher Nolan style; lots of blues and a pretty persistent sense of tension.  In movies like Batman Begins and The Dark Knight, this is a curse.  His complete refusal to have any sense of humor really sucks any entertainment value out of those movies, but in this case it actually works pretty well in keeping the storyline driving and characters moving.

The actors are pretty good too.  Al Pacino does his thing well, but his character isn't very sympathetic, and that's a big blow to the movie.  He's obviously supposed to be a flawed, but basically good guy, but you never really get the sense of remorse that he should be feeling.  It's just hard to connect to him in any real way because he doesn't ever seem to have human emotions.  He's tired a lot.  Good character there.  Robin Williams is actually the far more likable character; he's clearly a villain, but the way he's written is far more sympathetic and human than Pacino.  Plus it's hard to hate Williams, especially given that he's somewhere in between his quirky dramedy phase (Patch Adams, Jack) and his bad family comedy phase (RV, Old Dogs).  Give me his dramatic performances any day of the week.

But the most frustrating thing about this movie is that the idea of a cop and a killer both suffering from insomnia in some tiny little Alaskan town could make for a really great movie.  Williams's character even mentions delusions a couple times, and we do see them, but they have no bearing on the plot whatsoever.  It would have been nice to see both of them slowly come more and more unraveled and hallucinating until the audience isn't sure which one is the good guy and which one is the bad guy anymore.  But alas, no, instead we get a fairly generic crime drama with a weak ending and disjointed feel throughout the whole thing.  So much wasted potential.

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