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Dan Heller's Movie Review of "Insomnia"

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Al Pacino/Robin Williams
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When I went to see "Insomnia", I was so thrilled to see what Christopher Nolan would come up with next. His previous film, "Momento", was one of my favorites last year, if not on my list of historical best. And, with Al Pacino and Robin Williams starring as the veteran cop and killer, respectively, my expectations were high. This is normally a sign of caution: when they're that high, be careful, because it's easy to be disappointed. Perhaps the fact that I wasn't disappointed says a lot - in fact, I loved the film. It's just that it wasn't anyone's strongest work, and no performance - by actor or filmmaker - had seriously stood out.

Ironically - and perhaps, most importantly - the strongest part of the film was the storyline itself. Al Pacino plays Will Dormer, a cop under investigation by his own internal affairs department in LA., for tampering with evidence in a case against a child-molester. While this investigation is underway, Dormer and his partner are both sent to a sleepy town in Alaska to investigate the murder of a young girl. It turns out that Dormer's partner is cooperating with the LA investigation, making his relationship with Dormer very acrimonious. As the Alaska murder case develops, they quickly find the girl's murderer is an author named Walter Finch, played by Robin Williams. During a foot-chase through morning fog, Dormer accidentally shoots his own partner - the guy that's going to testify against him in LA. Even though it was an accident, Dormer tries to make it appear that Finch killed him - otherwise, the circumstances could make it look like Dormer intentionally killed his partner. The twist is that Finch witnessed the killing, and the psychological game is now set between Dormer and Finch: each has as much to lose as the other, so either they cooperate with each other and both get off scot-free, or they turn against one another and suffer the consequences for their actions.

Al Pacino/Hilary Swank
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This psychological interplay is interesting in itself, but what gives the film depth is the morality questions the individual characters pose to themselves and each other, often confusing the line between their genuine philosophical thoughts, and what you say to the other guy to get him to see things your way.

While I certainly enjoyed the film a great deal while watching it - it has a great script, great storyline, and a good pace - I felt only mildly disappointed that Nolan made a "safe" and "traditional" film by comparison to his previous effort. The film also didn't need, demand or exercise the talents of Pacino or Williams, so it might have been a better film had we had strong unknown actors give it more of a indie-film feel. Nevertheless, it's a fine effort from a clearly strong filmmaker, and I look forward to seeing his next effort.

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