As someone commented on an anime review I read once, the most difficult movies to review are the mediocre ones. You can't call them bad or good since they're neither; they usually excel in one region and are extremely lacking in another (for example, good cinematography and weak plot). After being severely disappointed a couple of times, I swore to never go into a movie with high expectations. Obviously, I made this mistake again for this one.
Detective Will Dormer and his partener Hap Eckhart are sent to a small town in Alaska to aid the local police in solving a murder case. With the never-setting Sun* preventing him from sleeping, Will Dormer slowly starts breaking apart as he finds out more about the victim and her connection with some of the locals.
Will Dormer doesn't take shit from anyone.
Al Pacino stole the show with his performance. He successfully played the part of the fish-out-of-water city cop sent to a zone completely different from his own. His performance was overall credible, with some minor slips. However, I felt he was too "high above" for the tone of the movie and didn't quite fit in the context. A notable mention is Robin Williams, who plays the antagonist. It was a good change to see him in something more serious this time and while he wasn't as good as he could have been, his performance was mostly decent.
The scenery was beautiful, especially the overview shots in the beginning, when Will and Hap arrive by plane to Alaska. It's a treat to see enormous glaciers on a big screen, I'll admit that!
And while it's neither good or bad, I'll say a word or two about the soundtrack. It wasn't impressive, it didn't make me go "ooh" and "aah"; it was just...there. Nothing exciting in particular, but it wasn't unpleasant either.
However good was Pacino's performance, I was constantly reminded of his role in Scent of a Woman: he always had a blank stare and was very irritated and jumpy throughout almost the entire movie. While I understand the role asked for the imitation of an unstable person, this was kind of too reminiscent of his other role. In contrast to his performance, the rest of the cast didn't shine too much, and at times the acting felt downright wooden.
While I always enjoy a good mindf**k movie (personal term for it, what can I say), the plot was too complicated for its own good. There was a lot of material to work with, yet this seemed rushed: the pacing was off at times, ranging from tense to almost boring, and some scenes felt dragged on or pointless.
I expected a more dynamic act from Williams, after seeing Pacino's more passive demeanor, but even he disappointed me a bit. He didn't prove his entire potential; he could have been much more but settled for a mediocre-to-good performance. Hilary Swank was nothing special, she was just there to play the part of the rookie cop who looks up to her "mentor" and her character's development was predictable.
The Plain WTF (spoilers concerning Hap Eckhart)
I don't think there are any WTF scenes to talk about extensively; perhaps one of them is when Hap is shot by Will and dies. His character felt useless and just another plot device to explain the constant degradation of Will's mind and to add to the tension.
Dormer: You shouldn't knock misdemeanors.
Det. Ellie Burr: Oh, but it's small stuff. It gets so boring.
Dormer: It's all about small stuff. You know, small lies, small mistakes. People give themselves away, same in misdemeanors as they do on murder cases. It's just human nature.
A battle of wits.
Verdict and recommendations
I guess I expected more from Cristopher Nolan after seeing The Prestige; as I mentioned in the beginning, I set my expectations too high. As a consequence, I wasn't too impressed because I was expecting too much. As much as they wanted to incorporate some themes, I can't help but get a vibe that they only scratched the surface of what could have been a great thriller.
* I know the Sun does set, I just wrote it that way because it doesn't set while Will is in Alaska.
Originality + creativity: 1 point
Actors (acting and if they fit the parts): 1.5 points
Soundtrack: 1 point
Special effects/Natural flow: 1 points
How much I enjoyed it: 1 point
My rating: (5.5, estimated to 5 out of 10)
Insomnia (2002) on IMDb.com