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Insomnia (2002)

Though some charged that Memento director Christopher Nolan's re-make of Insomnia was redundant, in the end the film proved to be a careful, meticulous, thorough, and realistic exploration of clashes of cultures, psychologies, and moralities. The two films are subtly different. Both are about a cop sent to a different jurisdiction to help the locals solve a horrible crime. In the case of Nolan's Insomnia, it is Will Dormer (Al Pacino), an LAPD Robbery-Homicide Division detective who is sent up to Nightmute, Alaska, to help in the investigation of the brutal death of a high school girl named Kay Connell (Crystal Lowe). Accompanying him is his partner, Hap Eckhart (Martin Donovan). In Nightmute, the investigators are welcomed by Charles Nyback (Paul Dooley), an old colleague, now the chief of police in Nightmute. They also are fawned over by a young woman officer named Ellie Burr (Hilary Swank), who studied Dormer's cases at the Academy. They also inspire resentment in the turf-conscious Fred Duggar (Nicky Katt). Soon it becomes clear that Kay was killed by someone she knew, but who was not in her immediate circle. In addition, it is quickly obvious that Dormer and Eckhart have been shuffled off to Alaska to evade an in-depth Internal Affairs investigation on the order of the recent Ramparts case. Tensions arise between Dormer and Eckhart, and then after a tragedy in the fog chasing down a suspect, Dormer finds himself taunted, blackmailed, and manipulated by the person who committed the Connell murder. The two films are remarkably similar while being different in significant ways. Dormer still has a fling with a hotelier (Maura Tierney), but it is much more tender. Dormer still has a sexually tense encounter with Kay's man-stealing best friend Tanya (Katharine Isabelle), but instead of putting his hand under the dress of a teenage girl (no doubt unacceptable to the MPAA), Dormer manipulates her into spilling some information. The relationship between Dormer and Walter Finch (a subtle, almost passive Robin Williams) is much different. Finally, the American version is arguably sadder, in that it has an "unhappy" if redemptive ending. Warner has done a characteristically Nolanian job with its one-disc Insomnia DVD release. Both widescreen and pan-and-scan editions have been released with identical supplements. The widescreen edition offers an anamorphic transfer (2.35:1) that looks beautiful, while audio comes in Dolby Digital 5.1. The major supplement is an audio commentary by Christopher Nolan, offered, unusually, in production-schedule order, not in the film's chronological order. Also on board are also selective audio commentaries by Hilary Swank, screenwriter Hillary Seitz, cinematographer Wally Pfister, and others. In one of the best features on the disc, called "180º: Christopher Nolan interviews Al Pacino: An Unscripted Conversation on a Saturday Afternoon," we finally get to hear Pacino talk about this work. A deleted scene offers a conversation between Pacino and Tierney. Also here are several "making-of" featurettes, a theatrical trailer, a stills gallery, cast/crew notes, and DVD-ROM content. Snap-case.
—D.K. Holm

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