ninth symphony films - movie reviews


DIRECTOR  -  christopher nolan

RATED  -  r

GENRE  -  suspense

LENGTH  -  120 minutes

RELEASED  -  24 may 2002

DISTRIBUTOR  -  warner bros.

OFFICIAL SITE  -  insomnia

ESTIMATED BUDGET  -  $46,000,000
insomnia - a shot from the film


buy the dvd from insomnia at

buy the dvd from insomnia at

a sleep-deprived detective is sent to a small alaskan town to investigate the murder of a teenage girl and is forced into a psychological game of cat-and-mouse.

the budget for this film hovered around 50 million dollars.


picture from insomnia

picture from insomnia

picture from insomnia


two out of four possible stars

Stellar cast, lackluster plot. These two elements war with one another throughout Insomnia's entire running time. There are a number of things in this film which detract from the fine performances of the lead stars. The first, being the predictability of the script. Insomnia takes the path of a pretty standard cop movie and never surprises the audience with any creativity on the part of its story. Allowing for the fact that the film is a remake, it should still be sufficient to say that anyone who has seen a detective movie or two will know exactly how this film ends. And the path the script takes to get to that ending is just as easy to predict. It is clear that one must rely on the abilities of the actors for any theatrical enjoyment. And the film does try to put the performances in the forefront. It should be considered a rare feat, but the cinematographer actually succeeded in making alaska look like a pretty dreary place.

In point of fact, much of the movie is quite dreary. This fits in quite well with the movie's overall theme, and Al Pacino only adds to that feeling with his genuinely exhausting performance. Pacino has said that he prepared for this role as would a method actor, by restricting his sleep before the shooting of the film commenced. His "method" was quite a good choice, as he was able to fully embody this role. As were the other headlining members of this cast. In a role quite different than his usual sunday brunch-like fare, Robin Williams manages to light up the screen even though his character is quite a dark criminal. In Insomnia, Williams is definitely in the middle of a depressing shot of films. He seems to merge back and forth from the light and happy to the dark and depressing every few years. Whenever audiences become tired of his Patch Adams sense of humor, he grows a beard and makes a film like Jakob the Liar.

This variety of film roles has had some good and bad effects on Williams's character though. Whenever he pops up in a comedy, all his dramatic and "Oscar-worthy" roles seem to be completely forgotten. He is consistently forgotten by the media as one of america's greatest dramatic actors. It took several amazing films for him to finally receive an Academy Award. And his performance in Insomnia illustrates his abilities quite expertly. As does the performance of Hilary Swank. Already recognized with a few awards for her performance in Boys Don't Cry, Hilary has proven with this role that she can hold her own against the biggest Hollywood names. Despite the above the title billing (meaning her name's above the title on the poster), Hilary is more of a supporting character for much of the film, but each time she's on the screen, it's easy to see why her acting abilities have been praised before.

Now, this film comes from the director who brought to life the incredibly original 2001 film, Memento. But Insomnia is a different breed of movie. It's a major Hollywood motion picture, with all the trappings of that species. Like sub-standard story and messed up cinematography and editing. In fact, it seems that a lot of energy was placed into the editing and cinematography in order to create something out of nothing. Strange editing techniques and odd camera angles populate much of the film. The editing in particular seems so much like an experiment gone wrong. Sometimes the cuts seem planned and deliberate, while at other times, the editing actually gets in the way of the story. The job of an editor is to reveal the story that the director wishes the audience to see, but Dody Dorn, the editor, doesn't always accomplish that. It's not that the film becomes confusing either. It's more that it becomes noticeable outside the film. And that the editing becomes something to be noticed in the first place is a sign that the editing room was not the site of this film's intelligence.

Something else, which seems to be some kind of flashy element put in at the studio's request, is the prevalence of the word f**k in so many of the scenes. Nearly every character says this word more than once and they don't just utter it for good reason. Many times, it sounds awkward because it's shouted out at an odd moment, or a teenager is saying it at a few hundred decibels. Most of the characters in this film are presented as being deliberate, thinking individuals, and the word just doesn't seem to belong. It's quite clear that this technique of placing shocking language into so many different mouths was more of an attempt at offending the audience than anything else. Story-wise and in terms of character, that word just didn't fit well with the tone of the movie.

Now structurally, the film seems to trot forward to each plot point without a lot of meat between those moments of high drama. Every fifteen minutes or so, "something happens" to forward the plot along a bit, but when it all comes down to it, those "somethings" are the performances. Placing such a strong bevy of Oscar winning actors in a film isn't a guarantor of success, and this film has quite a few failings, so if anything constructive is to be taken from this film, it's that all the weight shouldn't be placed on those performances, no matter how incredible they are. Fans of the detective genre will probably not be too impressed by the story-line, and the editing leaves something to be desired, but if one is interested in nothing but the abilities of Robin Williams, Al Pacino, and Hilary Swank, this film will deliver.

Review by Kelsey Wyatt.

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