The Brunching Shuttlecocks Features


Insomnia ought to be a really good film.

It stars Al Pacino, who's usually pretty good, Robin Williams, who can be quite good, and Hilary Swank, who has been known to be good. All three of these people have won an Academy Award, so the pedigree is there. If this were a dog show, you'd expect them all to win Best of Breed.

Insomnia is directed by Christopher Nolan, who directed the absolutely wonderful film Memento, so there's another point in the film's favor. Plus, it's a remake of a very good Norwegian film called--get this--Insomnia. And it takes place in Alaska, which is cool, because not nearly enough films take place in Alaska.

Everything seems to be pointed in the right direction for a really, really great film.

And yet...

Insomnia is the story of Al Pacino, a famous LA detective who comes to Alaska to help the locals solve a baffling murder. He shows up in the summer, which means it never gets dark. All summer. While this may well be great for after-work softball leagues and working on your Alaskan tan, it can play havoc on your sleep patterns if you're not adjusted to it. Al Pacino is not adjusted to it and he doesn't sleep. Ever. Hence the title.

Sounds kinda cool, yeah? Yeah. It is kinda cool. And that sums up the problem with the film, it's good. It's not great. It should be great. Everyone does a good job, living up to their potential and doing their mothers' proud. Still, the film doesn't quite kick it into overdrive.

It's long. It's slow. More forgiving people might say instead that it takes its time and draws out the tension. I say, it's long and it's slow.

The climax leaves much to be desired in the way of a climax. It's over pretty quickly, and not all that elaborately. There are a number of exciting action sequences that blow the climax out of the water; one involving a bunch of logs is just great.

The characters never seem to connect the way you want them to connect. Everyone seems to have their own little private Idaho, and no one is allowed in. Which is a shame, because you'd love to see these three fine actors (as well as other fine actors who simply haven't won any awards yet in their careers and therefore are not worth mentioning) have at each other. But they're all very refined. Very proper. It's like it's a damn Merchant/Ivory pic or something.

Truthfully, the film may have been hamstrung from the start by its lineage. Norway is a cold, placid place, so they tell me, and it churns out cold, placid movies, it would seem. When it's a few degrees below zero, you tend to create the more intellectual films, and that's what you have here--an intellectual film that tries to be a bit more, and in the process, loses an important something.

Don't get me wrong, this is a good film. But it's not a film that begins and ends before you realize you've been in a theater for two hours. You know exactly how long you've been sitting in that increasingly uncomfortable chair. You've looked around at the people around you once or twice and wonder whether that the old guy with the beard who looks like he's sleeping is actually dead. When it's over, you feel very smart and you talk about how that film was very intelligent and how it dug into the intellect and what makes a man and what is evil and where is the line. And then you go home admit to yourself that you were a little bored, but you feel bad for admitting it.

Well that's why I'm here. I'll admit it. I was a little bored. I understood the questions it raised, I got the dilemmas it tossed at the characters, the issues of morality and justice and fairness. I was a little bored.

I can't imagine watching this at home on the DVD. I'd get up every ten minutes to check the cats, check a baseball score, do my nails. It'd take me a week to get all the way through the film, and I would have lost everything, because you need to see this all the way through with no interruptions. Therefore, if you're going to see this movie, see it in the theater. Don't wait for home video. Also, Alaska is a really pretty place, and Nolan shows us why Alaska is very, very cool.

In the end, Insomnia gets 3 1/6 Babylons. Not to be obvious, but Nolan does a very good job at getting across Pacino's emotional distress to the point that when the film is over, the only thing you really want to do is sleep.

Editor's Note:

This review started out as a typical, sleepy, SMC review, but somewhere in the middle I woke up and started listening to what the SMC had to say. God help me.

Rated: R
Directed By: Christopher Nolan Staring: Al Pacino, Robin Williams, Hilary Swank, and some others who have never won anything so who the Hell cares.

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