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Insomnia (R)
Warner Bros.
Official Site
Director: Christopher Nolan
Producers: Paul Junger Witt, Steven Soderbergh, George Clooney
Written by: Hillary Seitz, Nikolaj Frobenius, Erik Skjoldbaerg
Cast: Al Pacino, Robin Williams, Hilary Swank, Martin Donovan, Nicky Katt

Rating: out of 5

One question for Christopher Nolan: Why? Does he think people are sitting around at home thinking, ďYou know Iíd like to watch more Norwegian film, but I just donít find it accessible. I wish some director would come along and remake a fantastic Norwegian movie so that I can watch it?Ē Or perhaps he simply thought to himself, ďIt would be very artistically satisfying to remake a recent film scene-for-scene, but change everything that makes the original good, including the ending.Ē Regardless of the thought process that led to this movie, it is a waste of time. And if youíve already seen the original, donít even think twice about this rehash because it offers absolutely nothing fresh.

Al Pacino plays Will Dormer, an LA police detective sent to Alaska with his partner (Donovan) to solve a murder and to escape the pressure that Internal Affairs has been putting on the two cops. Upon arrival, Dormer meets the local fuzz (Swank), discovers the 24-hour sunlight, and learns that his partner is going to cut a deal with IA and roll over on Dormer. Heís understandably mad. Then during the course of the investigation Dormer accidentally shoots his partner. Or was it an accident? As Dormer continues to lose sleep because of the constant sun, he plays a deadly game with the killer (Williams) and begins to lose his sanity.

Aside from the IA subplot and the ending, this movie is exactly like the original. The dialogue is different and obviously in English instead of Norwegian, but every plot point is exactly the same. Entire scenes are lifted straight from the original. Itís disturbing because there is no originality at work here. Any dope with a camera could make this movie. Except for the ending, which is a drastic change from the original, but in a very bad way.

In the original movie, the protagonist (played by Stellan Skarsgard) was an anti-hero. He crossed well beyond the line of good. He was amoral and creepy. The beauty of the movie came from its ability to represent the cop as more evil than the criminal. Here, that theme gets sold down the river. Apparently American audiences canít handle amorality, so Pacino becomes a good guy. Tarnished, but good. The critically important role of the hotelkeeper becomes a ridiculous walk-on part in this version. The original has a fantastic ambiguous grayscale palette to its cinematography; this film has none of that. The locals change from being unnervingly hostile to bland and friendly. The list of changes goes on, but in short, all the little things that make the original so good, disappear.

If it werenít a remake, this film might not be so bad. After all, most of the cast gives fine performances. Williamsí take on the perverse but human killer is refreshing, and Swankís wide-eyed rookie role has some bite to it. Pacino is in decent form, but he sometimes appears to be ignoring the title and sleeping through his scenes. The original spoils any gains in this department, though. The actors are vastly superior in the original, and their interactions have profound meaning. This versionís characters converse like, well, Padme and Anakin. (Well, maybe thatís too harsh.)

In the end we must return to Nolan. What was he thinking? Why did he abandon the unique storytelling patterns he pioneered in Following and Memento? And why did he remake a movie that came out only five years ago? I find this trend disturbingly pathetic, and I hope that this film and Vanilla Sky are the only examples of this breed. Hollywood steals from books, comics, reality, TV, itself, and now, modern foreign films. Whoís left to steal the candy of creativity from? Babies, thatís who. And I for one wonít stand for such amorality. Join me fellow moviegoer. Rebuke modern Hollywood, save your hard-earned money, and force filmmakers to come up with their own material.

óZack Schenkkan


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