Insomnia (2002)

Rating: B-

Dir: Christopher Nolan
Star: Al Pacino, Robin Williams, Hilary Swank

A movie largely centred around someone trying to get to sleep would seem to be asking for trouble. But I managed to stay awake, mostly without effort, through this psychological thriller which puts detective Dormer (Pacino) in a symbiotic relationship with murderous author Williams, up in Alaska where the sun never sets, and sleep is impossible for the cop to get. The edgy state this creates is well-reproduced, with that little flashes of surrealness out of the corner of your eye, that will be familiar to anyone who’s ever gone more than 36 hours awake.

It is kinda slow-moving though, and the plot is flakily reliant on things like convenient fog; you’d also think Dormer, even without sleep, would get wise and tape-record the taunting phone calls of his nemesis. But the hero is an interesting character, with a murky past of his own and his relationship with a local rookie (Swank) helps shed light on his insistence that, where justice is concerned, the end justifies the means. A remake of a European film of the same name (which I haven’t seen, so can’t compare), the mercilessly bright Alaskan landscape almost becomes a personality in its own right, helping the villain to chip away at Dormer’s sanity with ruthless efficiency. Williams is restrained enough to be effective, but this is mostly a showcase to let you watch Pacino slowly self-destruct for two hours.