Christopher Nolan movies mean many things: angsty heroes with dead lovers, action scenes that whiz by so fast they leave you upside down, and plotlines that require devoted attention lest they become incomprehensible.
Enter Insomnia. There's a dynamic, interesting female lead (notably still alive!), a plot that owes more to careful characterization and mood-building than twists and turns, and most notably, a single action scene that isn't even part of the film's climax.
Nolan places us in the infinite sunshine of an Alaskan summer. I mention the setting because it means as much to the movie as the characters actions, weaving itself into every scene in surprising ways. Al Pacino's Will Dormer goes for days without sleep; is it because of the endless sunlight, or something else? Watch the way the sunshine breaks into particular scenes, even as he goes mad trying to block it out.
Hilary Swank's character, who starts out idealizing Dormer, quickly realizes something's amiss. She's patient in playing her hand, but you can see she's ready to at any given moment. Robin Williams plays the third in this triangle; he couches his murderous character with such a "man-next-door" sensibility that we're constantly forced to question whether he might actually be one of the good guys. Saying more would spoil the film.
Insomnia's a thriller that follows none of the traditional thriller beats; we know exactly who all the guilty parties are from the beginning of the film. What's more unusual is that they know as well. Circumstances force them all to dance around each other in perfect balance, electrons and protons, held apart by forces none could have foreseen. This dance provides more than enough tension to keep our interest. And so it happens that Nolan's most engaging movie is the one with the least action.
Have you guys seen it? What are your thoughts?