Sunday, May 26, 2002

Nolan's Insomnia

Just back from seeing the new Insomnia. Though I never saw the 1997 original and had no expectations based on an admiration of the source material, I was a big on Nolan's Memento and had high hopes for this one. While hardly a sophmore slump of Stone Rosesian proportions (straining to make the link here, I'm glossing over the fact that this is actually Nolan's third film), I left feeling like Nolan hadn't gotten any more out of Pacino than Mann had in Heat. Not that Pacino was bad in Heat; I just expected more. As a point of comparison, the scene in Heat where Pacino (the cop) sits in a coffee shop and has talk with DeNiro (the baddie) has a bit of an echo in Pacino's chat with Williams's murderer aboard the ferry in this flick. I don't mean to say the situation is the same or serves a similar function, just that we've got the 'good guy' and the 'bad guy' talking things over without a chase or shots being fired. Pacino's cop in Insomnia, the dilemma he faces ... the ingredients were there for the scene to be at least as effective or memorable -- it just doesn't quite happen. Not bad. Just not remarkable. Nolan does a great job restraining Pacino from engaging in his usual bug-eyed scenery chewing and even managed to get Williams harness his inner Mork. The two canned hams give solid performances. Nolan handles the filming of the insomiac's affliction well. (I flashed back to my experience on one the more brutal stretches of I-90 through PA as I did the nonstop CT to WI trek during one scene to the point where I jerked alert just like I did behind the wheel after being hypnotized by the back and forth of the wiper blades.) I can't fault the script, the cinematography, the actors, the direction ... I just didn't get engaged the way I'd hoped. Soderberg was listed as one of the executive producers; I almost wonder if this material wouldn't have been more suited to his style? I'm glad I saw it and I appreciate the skill with which it was crafted, but I can't rave about it. I hope this doesn't mean I'm so conditioned to the standard over-the-topness of the usual dreck that a movie with realistic, human characters in a plausible story told at an unhurried narrative pace leaves me craving bullet-time f/x and cartoonish Willem Dafoe style villainry?

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