Sunday, May 26, 2002

Insomnia (IMDB) (Netflix)
They say that cops and criminals live two sides of the same psychosis, and any number of films and books have worked this theme, but few as smartly as this drama. A teenage girl has been murdered in small Alaska town, and two Los Angeles detectives have been dispatched to ostensibly help solve the case, but also to get the hell out of Dodge as an internal affairs investigation heats up. Al Pacino is the famous homicide dick with some secrets, Hilary Swank the eager, hero-worshiping local and Robin Williams as the key suspect, and the three get hung up in a complex cross-linkage of motivations and, for lack of a decent piece of non-jargon, co-opetition, that knocks together means, ends and living with consequences.

Director Christopher Nolan, who wrote and directed the innovative Memento, adapts a well-regarded 1997 Norwegian film of the same name (currently playing on the Independent Film Channel). Because this is a remake, you can bemoan the lack of Hollywood creativity (this is a summer of remakes and sequels), but the fact is that very few people saw the original, and a lot of people are going to pay to see this version--and they should. It's atmospheric, clever, and well-acted all-around; Pacino is at his weariest, Swank hits all the right notes as she loses her naïveté, and Williams exudes a restrained schtick-less creepiness that shows just how scary-looking a guy he is when he's not mugging for the audience.