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:: Insomnia

Detective Will Dormer (Al Pacino) and his partner Hap Eckhart (Martin Donovan) are sent to Nightmute, Alaska to investigate the murder of a seventeen year-old girl. In this perpetual daylight town, Dormer and Eckhart meet local Detective Ellie Burr (Hillary Swank), a recent graduate who studied Dormer’s life and work at the academy and is eager to learn from him and use his expertise in solving the case.

After some investigation, Dormer and Eckhart find the killer and are on his trial. There is some confusion and clouded vision when a shot rings out and Eckhart is wounded. Struggling to keep his shooter away, Eckhart dies with the look of fear in his eyes. Ellie is assigned to investigate the proceedings of what happened and questions Dormer who cautiously must account for every action and move made by the killer and himself. Dormer begins to struggle with his guilt and even points out to Ellie before she files her incident report that she should carefully check all the facts.

Once the identity if the teenage girl’s killer is discovered to be a local mystery novelist, Walter Finch (Robin Williams), Dormer tracks down his residence in a nearby town. Finch is one step ahead of him and knows what is tormenting Dormer and knows that he is being framed for Eckhart’s murder. Finch uses this information to blackmail him and ‘get off’ on the murder of the young teenage girl, which he admits that he did in fact commit. As the harsh daylight of the town seeps through his room at night, Dormer’s guilty conscious torments him and doesn’t allow him to sleep, a weakness that Finch plays upon as he repeatedly calls him through out the night, enticing him to wrap up the case and frame the girl’s boyfriend and go home back to LA where he can sleep and be free of this town. After several meetings Dormer has no choice and reluctantly agrees to frame the murdered girl’s boyfriend. Meanwhile Ellie is on her own investigation, unsatisfied with the evidence, she finds certain details don’t quite match and due to this begins to suspect that ‘something is up’ with Dormer.

Dormer’s conscious gets the better of him and we see him and Finch in a final showdown where Ellie herself is in anger and realises the truth about her fallen hero, Dormer. In a final climactic moment, Ellie is faced with a ‘crisis of conscious’ and realises that she needs Dormer’s help to pull through.

Written by Hillary Seitz and directed by Christopher Nolan, Insomnia is a remake of a Norwegian film of the same name. Insomnia uses the vast Alaskan landscape and dark claustrophobic interiors to highlight the internal drama of the screenplay. The indistinguishable night and daytime of the town is internalised by the indistinguishable actions of Dormer and Finch, are they good, bad or a little bit of both? Both characters remain ambiguous to the end. The eternal daylight also serves to emphasize Dormer’s internal guilt, especially in a scene where he rearranges and stacks the furniture along the window blinds to block out the light, when the room attendant, Rachel, walks in and asks what the problem is, Dormer replies that there’s too much light in the room, Rachel replies back, “it’s dark in here.” Dormer just doesn’t see it.

The performances are exceptionally good, especially in the surprise casting of Robin Williams as the teenage girl’s murderer, Walter Finch. He brings a dark sinister-like quality to Finch, which hasn’t been revealed before in any of his past roles. Al Pacino’s portrayal of Dormer as he struggles with insomnia and his guilty conscious brings a new dynamic to Pacino’s acting abilities, a great actor that can breathe life into the most complex and interesting characters. Hillary Swank’s Ellie Burr seems at times to be forced into scenes that don’t necessarily require her presence, however she displays a keen ability to play down her character when necessary and realising that her character cannot be matched by Pacino’s brilliance.

Screening on general release.