Insomnia
dir. Nolan
Opens Fri May 24
Various

Patch Adams. If there's anyone who deserves to have that albatross hanging around his neck, it's Robin Williams. And though he's also done some very competent work (Good Will Hunting), whenever I see him being touted as an insane murderer in the trailers for Insomnia, I think Patch Adams. And then I think you've gotta be kidding.

And while the thought of Robin Williams is enough to turn anyone away from a movie line, Insomnia also boasts one of the more impressive talent lineups I've seen. Al Pacino, Hilary Swank, and Martin Donovan round out a flick which is executive produced by Steven Soderbergh (Traffic) and directed by Christopher Nolan (Memento). But as they say, all it takes is one bad apple, and if that apple is Patch Adams? Then you've got trouble. Happily for all, however, there's not a rotten piece of fruit in the bunch, and Insomnia is wholly excellent.

Pacino plays Will Dormer, a hotshot homicide cop from L.A. who, along with his partner (Donovan), travels to a small town in Alaska to help solve the brutal murder of a 17-year-old girl. However, as it turns out, the real reason for their arrival is to escape a murky internal investigation back in Los Angeles. When Dormer's partner is accidentally killed while chasing after the Alaskan murderer, Dormer is then drawn into an unholy alliance with the suspect (Williams), who has developed a convincing scheme that will make both of their problems go away

Insomnia plays like a pot-boiling page-turner you can't put down, and this is largely due to the talents of director Nolan. When Dormer's character develops insomnia (due to Alaska's perpetual daylight, as well as his own guilt), Nolan uses the surrealistic side effects of the condition to fuel the cinematography; the atmosphere is constantly charged with the feeling of claustrophobia and dread. Meanwhile, the script wisely reveals its many secrets slowly, keeping the audience on seat's edge while pulling them easily from scene to scene.

As for the acting, Pacino and Donovan play off each other effortlessly, and even Williams performs without embarrassment. In fact, this movie is so good, it might even make one forget Patch Adams but then there's always Good Morning, Vietnam.