The filmís strong moral hinges on the belief that those that chose the path of good over evil pay a heavy price when they stray from their path. Once youíre on that higher moral path, God will knock you down for the slightest infringement.
This is what happens to veteran LAPD detective Will Dormer (Pacino) when he deliberately falsifies evidence to get a conviction in a murder case. Though this is not revealed until late in the story, the audience is aware that Dormer is under investigation for something in LA and this is why he and his partner Hap (Martin Donovan) are sent to a small Alaskan town to aid in a murder investigation. But instead of helping him to get away from it all for a while, something happens to make him stray even further from the path. In the land of the midnight sun, where the sun never sets at this time of the year, Dormer is forced to live an awake nightmare. Indeed, the constant light and his growing doubts and fears about his own guilt infect him with insomnia that lasts for days.
Williams plays Walter Finch, a reclusive novelist who writes pulp fiction including detective stories. While his life hasnít been as dedicated to the pursuit of good over evil as Dormerís has, he really hasnít done anything wrong until he beats a seventeen year old girl to death. This is a very different role for Williams, who usually plays compassionate good guy parts. ďItís exciting to play a character as despicable as Walter Finch,Ē Williams said. ďYouíre free to explore darker things like the seductiveness of evil Ė or the banality of it.Ē Indeed, unlike Dormer, when Finch steps into the darker side of life, heís not filled with guilt but seduced by the darkness. But his talent as an actor shows the audience the banality of evil.
Hence, the audience is not really taken on a wild roller coaster ride of edge-of-your seat action. There are no Hollywood heroes in this film so if this is the main reason you go to the movies, this one may disappoint you. But while it lacks the up and down tension of Changing Lanes (another film with a strong moral), if youíre content with good subtle acting, Insomnia, directed by Christopher Nolan, is for you.
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