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Insomnia

Starring Al Pacino, Hilary Swank, Robin Williams, Maura Tierney and Martin Donovan
Directed by: Christopher Nolan
Rated: R

 

Insomnia certainly won't put you to sleep! It's an exciting little yarn played out by a few of the finest the "biz" has to offer. The story loses steam towards the end to the point of grinding to a sad 'oh-not-that-scene-again' halt after such a riveting start. That's why the paltry 2 ½ stars ! Just because of that last thirty minutes of the film, which of course I will not expose. It's a tad (read: colossaly) far fetched. I kept thinking too bad they didn't take a cue from thriller masterpiece Seven and leave Robin Williams off the credits that would have certainly granted them huge leeway for the crappy ending they served up (those who are unfamiliar with the reference please see the Blunt Aside at the bottom of the page).

There are two very positive points to the film: Al Pacino and Robin Williams' scenes together. Al Pacino is one of those handful of actor's that simply grabs your interest with his first glance on screen and refuses to relinquish control till the last bit of his story is released through his being. Here he has to share some of his power with a phenomenal Robin Williams. I mean there's Mork up there not just holding his own with P-A-C-I-N-O but cementing the scene! Bravo!

Story goes Los Angeles homicide detectives Dormer (Al Pacino) and Eckhart (Martin Donovan) are up in Alaska on loan to the local police department with a gruesome murder of one of those locals, Kay.

Detective Will Dormer and his partner Detective Hap Eckhart arrive and start to piece the puzzle together. They find the murdered girl's knapsack and set it as bait for the killer.
The whole investigation gets fanucled thanks to a bumbling officer and while they quickly scramble after the killer Det. Eckhart is accidentally shot dead, thanks to a thick coastal fog that's set in causing low visibility.

Wait, shouldn't you refrain from shooting if you CAN'T see? Oh, and what's that? Det. Dormer may have a motive in this shooting because back in Los Angeles Dormer and Hap are being probed by Internal Affairs. Hmm. Seems a few of their colleagues have been busted for taking kickbacks and what not…little benefits not in the Badge of Honor's handbook. If you know what I mean. Detective Eckhart is fixin' to come clean and tell I.A. all he knows about what he knows, including his partner Dormer.

The tension between the two is pretty thick. Not as thick as the fog that ultimately costs the "Hap-less" canary his life….

After his partner is killed, Det. Dormer gets a tough case of insomnia. He's freaking out from exhaustion! The fine respected detective is on his third sleepless day when the killer (Robin Williams) contacts him. The killer thought it would be swell to chat since they're both up and all.

The killer, aka Walter Finch, knows a little something about Det. Hap Eckhart's death. Seems he witnessed the shooting. So, Finch and his wicked mind, thinks perhaps he and Det. Dormer can help each other out… devise a plan so neither is caught for their deeds. It's definitely not Dormer's week.

Al Pacino can do no wrong. Even here he was impeccable in performance and depth. He's a quick-eyed fellow who has a sparkle rarely seen. I just want to go to dinner with him in some seedy New York Italian eatery. Maybe have Bobby (DeNiro) in on the gathering. We'd sing loud songs, slurp bad wine and eat disgusting amounts of Marina laden pasta! My only thought for Insomnia and Al? I wish he had have rethought the ending and spoke up! Though it is a very Shakespeare ending…all neat and expected.

Hillary Swank is reduced to a Nancy Drew Dudley Dooright by-the-books officer. Even her character's name - Ellie Burr - screams stereotypical frump. I was surprised how small her pivotal role was.

Maura Tierney shows up as a lodge keeper who ultimately plays priest for Det. Dormer's late night confessional. What a wicked waste of talent here. But at least she's in it!

Robin Williams is a mega-talent. He glides from comedy to drama and now to maniacal killer. He was super as the poor palooka , Walter, that accidently happened to kill a gal… His character beat her to death ( ironically for the audience) because she laughed at him. Williams' Walt was so average Joe with a kind smile, he was positively unnerving.

Too bad Insomnia takes some irrevocable turns into the mediocre. I wish the writers and producers would sit back, grab a coffee, read through the piece's end scenes and think about things from an audiences point of view once in a while! I mean credit people with having an inkling of intelligence. They had us hook, line and halibut net till they decided to take the easy way out. The director, Christopher Nolan (Memento) did an excellent job again until the end and a few odd choices of edits for his stars...

You have to see Insomnia, it's cast alone demands it, but don't expect a refreshing ending delivered with hearty helping of Pacino and a biggy-size side of Williams, it aint happening.

Snack Recommendation: Halibut Stew with Smoked Halibut and Halibut Tar Tar

Blunt aside: Back when the film (starring Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman) Seven came out a rising actor named Kevin Spacey was cast as John Doe. He took no film credits on the piece; his name was nowhere to be seen. Thusly, we (the audience) had no idea who John Doe was. The brilliant thought was if we saw Spacey's name on the poster, or in the ads, and yet we didn't see him show up in first part of the film, as say a cop or rat tattle-tale hood, we'd deduct he'd have to be killer John Doe. He was a very hot item back then what with that little Usual Suspects film. Cunning move....excellent film.



 

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