With Oppenheimer‘s release nearly upon us, now would be a great time to revisit Christopher Nolan’s fascinating filmography. We all know how much the talented filmmaker loves to indulge in trippy plotlines, existential tribulations, thrilling action flicks, and Batman. However, as much as we love his films, some movies simply fly under the radar of most casual movie fans. That’s precisely what happened to Christopher Nolan’s Insomnia, which was released in 2002.
A murder mystery that only could have emerged from the mind of Christopher Nolan, Insomnia takes viewers for a thrilling ride as we follow a crime investigation gone wrong set in an Alaskan small town bathed by perpetual daylight. With an all-star cast of acting heavyweights and Nolan’s unique directing style coordinating everything behind the scenes, Insomnia (2002) is more than a worthy follow-up to the timeless classic that was Memento.
A Stellar Cast
Before we dig deeper into Insomnia‘s gripping plot, we should focus on how much of an all-star cast the movie features. The story revolves around a troubled Los Angeles cop, Will Dormer, played masterfully by none other than Al Pacino. The Scarface actor delivers just the kind of energetic and nuanced performance we’ve come to expect from him, making the guilt experienced by his character feel even more genuine.
Joining Pacino in Insomnia we have a long list of well-known names, like Robin Williams as the movie’s complex antagonist, Walter Finch. While most people will remember Williams for his comedic performances, films like Insomnia and One Hour Photo prove that the Canadian comedian could play some of the most unsettling villains to ever haunt the silver screen.
The Haunting Atmosphere
The idea of having a gritty neo-noir thriller set in a town where the sun never sets is just the kind of thing we’d come to expect from Nolan. Insomnia makes us fear the light as much as we do the shadows, as we see that sleep deprivation might be the lesser of Dormer’s woes.
Like some of his later films, Nolan manages to create an overwhelming sense of anticipation throughout the movie. Dormer’s decaying mental state as the guilt consumes him and the answers elude him helps to move the plot forward at all times, and also succeeds in making the audience feel as uncomfortable as the characters themselves.
As much as the movie exhibits some clear Nolan Trademarks, there’s a reason why most fans would “sense” that there’s something different about Insomnia compared to the rest of Nolan’s filmography, and that reason lies in the film’s script.
A Departure from the Norm
Any Nolan fan would agree that the filmmaker is one of the few auteurs in the industry today. The director oversees most of his films’ inner workings – and that includes writing the screenplay, something that he usually does with the help of his brother, Jonathan Nolan.
However, Insomnia is the only movie in Nolan’s career in which he didn’t write the story or the screenplay. This doesn’t make the film bad by any means – it only makes it feel different from your average Nolan film. The plot feels much more grounded than what we’ve come to expect from the director of Inception – and that’s something that fans of more straightforward thrillers might appreciate.
For true Nolan completionists, Insomnia is a must-watch. The movie barely gets the recognition it deserves, and that’s something that Nolan himself has confessed in the past. Insomnia was a transformative moment for Nolan’s career – it marked the point where the director “graduated” from indie cinema and stepped into the world of world-renowned movie franchises. Considering his next project was Batman Begins, it would be safe to say that he succeeded.
Have you ever given Christopher Nolan’s Insomnia (2002) a chance? If so, what did you think of it?