Christopher Nolan doesn’t need to do any more convincing to get me in his camp. Every one of his films sits high on my list of the greatest films ever in the history of the last 130 years. Well, I guess that’s not entirely the case. Other than Following, which I cannot yet give an opinion because I have yet to see it, Insomnia is the only Christopher Nolan film that I’ve never had a great opinion of. It started years ago, when I first saw Insomnia. And with that, we get to the review…
I’ll give the plot synopsis first. LAPD cop Will Dormer (Al Pacino) is sent to Alaska with his partner to aid in the investigation of the murder of a young girl. Within the first few moments of the film we learn that there is an intense internal affairs investigation (which is just a great stock movie thing that’s happening in police departments all of the time). We also learn that maybe Dormer kinda, sorta may have falsified evidence in the past, but only when he knew that the guy was guilty. His partner is going to rat out some other police officers, and Dormer gets pretty angry because he fears that his partner’s testimony will turn the heat on Dormer.
Cut to scene chasing bad guy Walter Finch (Robin Williams) in the fog. Dormer accidentally shoots his partner, whom he mistakes for the Finch. As his partner lays on the ground bleeding to death, he accuses Dormer of committing murder. Dormer assures the dying man that it was an accident, and then makes it appear as though Finch was the shooter. The rest of the story consists of Dormer trying to cover up the shooting while becoming increasingly disoriented by the 24-hour sunlight. The hitch? The killer saw the whole thing and starts blackmailing Dormer.
I realize, now that I’ve watched it again, that I didn’t actually remember the film very well. Now, let’s consider the lens through which I now view Insomnia. I’ve been an avid film fan for over 15 years now, and since seeing Insomnia in 2002, my understanding of filmmaking, film theory, tropes, story development, etc., has increased exponentially. And while I am by no means the next Roger Ebert, I do believe that I’m pretty well-rounded when it comes to my knowledge of film. Aside from being an amateur buff, I’m also solid Christopher Nolan fan. Excepting Following, I’ve seen all of his films and am incredibly excited about his next film, Inception.
The driving forces behind all of Nolan’s films are situation and perspective. Allow a brief explanation. In Memento, the film is told from the perspective of a man with a 5 minute memory. At the end of the film, the viewer learns that his perspective allows him to continually “avenge” his wife’s murder time and time again, even though he’s probably killing innocent people. In Batman Begins and The Dark Knight, the Joker’s whole motive is to prove that any person, driven to some kind of extreme, is capable of anything. Batman proves him right, in a sense, when he makes the situational decision to use all of the cell phones in Gotham City to locate the Joker (i.e. illegal wiretapping). Of course, he proves him wrong when he won’t do what the Joker wants: kill. Two-Face takes care of that one. The Prestige is about illusionists, so you can probably see why perspective is everything in that one, especially when you consider the big reveal at the end of the film.
Read Part II here.