Tag Archives: David Julyan

CHRISTOPHER NOLAN’S INSOMNIA — A REVIEW BY NICK CLEMENT

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Attempting a remake of any great film is always a questionable endeavor. I can remember seeing Erik Skjoldbjærg’s terrific Norwegian psychological thriller Insomnia at the theater on my college campus back in 1998 and thinking that an American remake would be rather pointless. The themes would never travel (especially the underage sexuality), how could one outdo Stellan Skarsgård, and how could a filmmaker capture that eerie atmosphere in a new and unique way? It was never going to be an easy task, but Christopher Nolan continued his hot streak with his stylish and underrated 2002 updating, which felt like the next logical step for him as a filmmaker after his breakout indie success Memento. Al Pacino gave a tired and tortured lead performance as a cop struggling with intense inner demons not to mention the inability to get any sleep; this is a film that touches on noir (daytime noir!) and the serial killer genres but still remembers to load the narrative with interesting character beats and small bits of surface details that all add up to a riveting mystery. Robin Williams gave one of the best performances of his career as a chilling psychopath who always seems to be one step ahead of Pacino and the authorities – that chase sequence he has with Pacino across those drifting logs in that chilly river is spellbinding stuff, with Nolan using incredible sound effects and expert spatial geography to heighten the tension. Williams brought a devilish smile to numerous scenes, and his unpredictability always kept you guessing, even within the relatively predictable confines of studio based genre entertainment. Martin Donovan, Nicky Katt, Hilary Swank, and Maura Tierney all offered solid support. This was a nervous, jittery piece of work from Nolan, who would later fashion a more controlled, rigid aesthetic in Inception and The Dark Knight trilogy (The Prestige looks even more unique these days) before moving on to his magnum opus, Interstellar. Wally Pfister’s slick yet gritty cinematography worked in perfect tandem with David Julyan’s haunting music and Dody Dorn’s taut editing. Remakes of already excellent films are rarely this effective.

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