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INSOMNIA

As remakes of foreign films go, director Christopher Nolan’s take on INSOMNIA ($25) proves to be a very tense and stylish thriller that benefits from the presence of three Academy Award winning performers. Based upon the Norwegian film of the same name, INSOMNIA remains fairly true to its inspiration without going the typical Hollywood assembly line route. In INSOMNIA, Al Pacino portrays Los Angeles homicide detective Will Dormer, who is sent to a small Alaskan community, along with his partner Hap Eckhart (Martin Donovan), to help solve the brutal murder of a teenage girl. During a stakeout that lures the killer out of hiding, Dormer accidentally shoots and kills his partner after losing the suspect in a dense fogbank. Shock and lack of sleep allows Dormer to assign blame for Hap’s death to the killer that he lost in the fog.

Robin Williams portrays said killer, one Walter Finch, who just happened to witness Dormer shoot his partner. Utilizing that bit of information as a bargaining chip, Finch attempts to blackmail Dormer into letting him get away with murder. What follows is a game of cross and double cross as each tries to gain the upper hand in their unique situation. However, what no one is counting on is the tenacity of local detective Ellie Burr (Hilary Swank), who idolizes Dormer, but is rapidly discovering the truth about both crimes on her own.

As I stated above, INSOMNIA greatly benefits from the presence of its three Academy Award winning actors. Pacino gives one of his better, more restrained, performances as Dormer, who tries to stay one step ahead of the killer, while dealing with the sleep deprivation brought about by his own guilt and the continuous daylight of this Northern Alaskan territory. INSOMNIA allows Robin Williams to show his surprisingly good darker side, which is very effective, especially since this film allows him the opportunity for a rather compelling “against type” performance. Hilary Swank is wonderful as the plucky younger detective, who manages to lighten the atmosphere of this dark story, without ever breaking the gripping story’s hold over the audience. The cast of INSOMNIA also includes Maura Tierney, Nicky Katt, Paul Dooley, Jonathan Jackson and Katharine Isabelle.

Warner Home Video has made INSOMNIA available on Blu-ray Disc in a 2.35:1 aspect ratio presentation that has been encoded onto the disc with the VC-1 codec. The 1080p presentation provides a superb rendering of Wally Pfister’s wonderfully moody cinematography, which also happens to highlight the superb location scenery. Image sharpness is terrific, plus the picture boasts a highly dimensional appearance. Fine details, such as individual hairs, as well as the texturing of objects appear wonderfully well resolved. As I noted on the DVD release, colors can appear a bit restrained, which exaggerates the perpetual daylight and the bleakness of the situations that the characters find themselves. However, when colors are at a more intense level, they are equally flawless. Blacks are pretty much pitch perfect, while the whites are crisp and stable. Contrast and shadow detail are excellent. Even the sequence within the dense fog bank is expertly encoded and reproduced. Grain is apparent within the image, which maintains the organic quality of this excellent presentation.

INSOMNIA is presented on Blu-ray Disc with a 5.1 channel DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack. The sound design is atmospheric, but married to a talky police procedural narrative, so it isn’t particularly flashy. However, the sound is excellent, while never calling attention to itself. The forward soundstage is dominant, with good separations across the front. As for the surround channels, they do see some activity, but when they do, sound effects tend to be primarily of an environmental nature, which create cohesive sonic environments. Of course, there is a smattering of well-placed directional effects in the rear channels, as well as the requisite musical fill. Thanks to the lossless encode, David Julyan’s musical score is very well represented. The bass channel is solid, without being overbearing. A French Dolby Digital 5.1 channel and Spanish 2.0 channel tracks are also encoded onto the disc. Subtitles are available in English, French and Spanish.

The interactive menus allow one access to the standard scene selection and set up features, as well as the supplemental materials, which have been ported from the DVD release. Starting things off are two Audio Commentaries. First up is director Christopher Nolan, whose full running commentary is presented in the order that the film was shot. Watching scenes out of sequence is kind of disorienting, but the commentary takes one "through the process" and makes it a fascinating experience. The second commentary isn’t really a track unto its self per-se, but instead individualized tracks in which actress Hilary Swank, screenwriter Hillary Seitz, editor Dody Dorn, cinematographer Wally Pfister and production designer Nathan Crowley speak for several minutes each over certain sequences of the film. Featurettes and other programs include the following: 180 Degrees: A Conversation With Christopher Noland And Al Pacino, which runs seventeen minutes offers an interview format in which the director and actor discuss various aspects of the project, as well as their approaches to acting and directing. Day For Night: The Making Of Insomnia is a seven-minute featurette that covers all the standard bases, but offers a bit more substance than the usual promotional program. The section entitled In The Fog offers two separate programs, totaling fifteen minutes, which cover Wally Pfister's cinematography and Nathan Crowley's Production design. Eyes Wide Open is an eight-minute program that interviews real insomniacs and physicians about the disorder. A Theatrical Trailer and Still Gallery close out the supplements.

INSOMNIA is a terrific thriller that benefits from a great cast and a great director, all of whom, are at the top of their game. Warner’s Blu-ray release proves to be a significant upgrade over its standard definition counterpart. Highly recommended.

 
INSOMNIA 


Insomnia [Blu-ray]

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DVD & Blu-ray Disc reviews are Copyright 2010 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.


 

 

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