MOVIE: *** (out of 5)
BLU-RAY EXPERIENCE: **** (out of 5)
BY KEVIN CARR
WHAT IT’S ABOUT
Before he made the wildly popular Batman movies, Christopher Nolan followed up his brilliant film “Memento” with this remake of a Norwegian thriller. In “Insomnia,” Al Pacino stars as a hot-shot police detective who is called to the Alaskan town of Nightmute, where a teenage girl has been murdered. Because Nightmute has sunlight 24-hours a day during this time of year, Pacino’s character suffers from insomnia and feels himself going crazy, especially after a tragic accident that leaves him weighed down with guilt.
WHAT I LIKED
In some ways, I enjoyed watching this early Nolan film even more than watching “Inception,” which has just hit the theater screens. I like seeing great directors do their work unburdened by their own fame.
The performances in this movie are what holds it together. Sure, Pacino just phones it in like he has ever since “Godfather: Part II,” but it’s the deliciously diabolical Robin Williams as the twisted yet oddly settling killer that really shines. And it doesn’t hurt to have Hilary Swank in the supporting cast.
“Insomnia” is a slow burn, and the European influences are very obvious in both pacing and tone. But even more beautiful than some of the performances and the story construction are the gorgeous locations in Alaska and British Columbia. “Insomnia” is a bit of a smaller film, especially for Christopher Nolan of today, but it’s still worth a look, and that look is pretty slick on Blu-ray.
WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE
I’ve never been a big fan of Al Pacino, as evidence by my comments earlier. The real powerhouse acting in this film comes from Robin Williams, who at the time was testing out darker roles. If there were a more appealing actor to me in the lead, the one-on-one confrontation scenes between the two main characters would have been so much more compelling to me.
Finally, from a technical perspective, the bonus features imported from the previously released DVD are woefully off level. I’m not one to nit-pick sound quality even on a Blu-ray, but the sound levels on these features range from slightly softer than the film to almost silent.
All of the bonus material is brought over from the DVD release, which normally would get a sour note from me, but considering how many Blu-rays are released with no bonus material at all from the DVD, at the very least we haven’t lost anything.
There’s additional scenes, a stills gallery and the theatrical trailer. There’s also four featurettes: “Day for Night: Making the Movie,” “In the Fog” (a look at production design and cinematography) and “Eyes Wide Open” (a look at real insomnia). The fourth featurette is a 17-minute interview with Nolan and Pacino which is actually a little depressing considering how much they stroke each other’s already inflated egos.
There are also several commentary features. The director’s commentary takes a note from “Memento” and takes the viewer through the film in the shooting order, which is a unique look. There are also assembled partial commentaries from Hilary Swank, Production Designer Nathan Crowley, Editor Dody Dorn, Cinematographer Wally Pfister and Screenwriter Hillary Seitz.
Finally, exclusive to the Blu-ray is a coupon to use for “Inception” in the theater, which is a great way to save money and literally see two movies for the price of one.
WHO’S GOING TO LIKE THIS MOVIE
Fans of Christopher Nolan and European-style thrillers.