It’s a Nolan movie but it’s also not really a Nolan movie
REPPED: Nolan yet again draws a solid performance from his actors and this time it’s from Al Pacino as Will Dormer! Detective Will Dormer has some good things going for him: he’s smart, attentive, organized and charming but as the film progresses you also see he has some red on his ledger. This moral ambiguity and the guilt Dormer carries is Insomnia’s central theme. We’re all aware of the “HOO-AHH’S” and the “HA’S” but Pacino tones it down for Insomnia which is a welcome change of pace. In the context of Pacino’s other performances, this probably wouldn’t even crack a Top 20 for most, but I implore everyone to give it a rewatch because Pacino does so much here with just the look on his weary eyes.
NEGGED: The actual mystery of who murdered Kay Connell is uninteresting and even Nolan knows that. The fact that Robin Williams doesn’t even appear until an hour into the film further supports the idea that Insomnia isn’t about the mystery at all. Rather, the real story lies in the character of Will Dormer and the guilt he feels in his pursuit of justice and the greater good. Nolan does enough to make that narrative as interesting as he can but it’s obvious where everyone’s interests truly lie.
FINAL VERDICT: Insomnia might not be Nolan or Pacino’s best work but it still manages to be an engaging murder mystery with great performances all around! Nolan doesn’t rely on plot twists or nonlinear narratives to tell his story; he simply presents it as it is. Even with a film as conventional as Insomnia, Nolan manages to inject something fresh and exciting into a film that, under lesser hands, could have been dismissed as another generic thriller. Pacino and Williams deliver effective performances and the cinematography has some gorgeous landscape shots which he’ll use to great effect for Batman Begins. Thematically and tonally, Insomnia fits right in with Nolan’s past and future filmography and it further establishes Nolan as a bold director who can take conventional material and turn it into something transcendent.