Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

Take away the star names and you have an ordinary thriller that doesn't add up.

Let's talk about the star names. Al Pacino walks through the movie like a man whose been given six weeks to live. There are things he can do blindfold, because he's an actor with Method, who's picked stuff up, little tricks, like the eyes.

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Pacino's eyes are very special. What director Chistopher Nolan does is cruel. He photographs him alone in the middle of a broad street in the empty dawn stillness and because the camera is way off and the screen wide, he looks like a leprechaun shambling home to its burrow.

Robin Williams plays the murder suspect in a pale yellow corduroy jacket. His hair is neat and he's close shaven. He's small, like Pacino, and not an athlete, although he does a great deal of running. He doesn't make faces, or tell jokes, or look at you with melty mouth and tears on hold. He's a writer of cheap detective fiction and, for a man who lives with dogs and books, surprisingly well-adjusted.

Hilary Swank has a role any unknown Hollywood actress would consider a challenge. There is nothing to it and the challenge is to find something of interest about the character. This is the woman who won an Oscar for Boys Don't Cry. She's what they call quality goods and seems shamefully wasted here.

Pacino is a famous LA detective, who is sent to Alaska to solve a teenage killing. Why would such an eminent cop from California come all that way for a fatal case of GBH? It turns out, there is an internal investigation going on back at the precinct and he's safer out of town. He has a row at the hotel with his partner (Martin Donovan), who isn't prepared to back him, because "I have a family" and his job might be on the line. It's irrelevant, although not, as things turn out.

Pacino goes through the motions of impressing the local constabulary, which includes rookie cop Swank, with his methods. The case is simple enough. The murdered girl had a jealous boyfriend. She was seeing someone else. He was two-timing with her best friend. All the clever cops have to do is find out who that someone else is.

An incident occurs during a botched stakeout in the mist, which puts Pacino in a difficult position. He attempts a cover up and Williams, who is being staked out, witnesses it and blackmails him - you shut up about me, I'll shut up about you.

The story is daft. British director Nolan, fresh from critical acclaim for Memento, uses snatches of flashback to illustrate scenes that no one should know about. It is exceptionally annoying. The location was used to better effect by John Sayles in Limbo and the film is a remake of Erik Skjoldbjaerg's debut, shot in Norway, with Stellan Skarsgard playing Pacino's role. All that can be said is that star names and Hollywood money do not improve on the original.

Reviewed on: 20 Aug 2002
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Al Pacino is an LA detective come to Alaska to solve a teenage murder.
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Read more Insomnia reviews:

Stephen Carty ****

Director: Christopher Nolan

Writer: Hillary Seitz, based on the script by Nikolaj Frobenius and Erik Skjoldbjaeg for Insomnia (1997)

Starring: Al Pacino, Robin Williams, Hilary Swank, Maura Tierney, Martin Donovan, Nicky Katt, Paul Dooley

Year: 2002

Runtime: 118 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: US


EIFF 2002

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