Tag Archives: robin williams

Insomnia – Review

30 Jan

I’ve reviewed some of Christopher Nolan’s work before, and as I’m sure I’ve said, he is one of the current most powerful forces in Hollywood. After dazzling critics and less mainstream audiences with Following and Memento, he was granted his first studio film. Insomnia, based off of a Norwegian film by the same name, is an interesting twist on the noir genre that also plays heavily with flawed human psychology and morality. The result is a crazy story with beautiful cinematography that is very well made and interesting, yet not Nolan’s best work by far.

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Will Dormer (Al Pacino) and his partner Hap Eckhart (Martin Donovan) are to LAPD detectives assigned a job in Nightmute, Alaska to help solve a mystery concerning the murder of a seventeen year old girl. Upon arrival they meet Ellie Burr (Hilary Swank) a young police officer who has studied Dormer’s work in the past and informs them that at this time of year, the sun doesn’t set in Nightmute. Eckhart soon tells Dormer that he will be cooperating in an internal affairs investigation that may end up ruining Dormer’s career and after an accidental tragedy strikes, it appears the hammer may be falling on Dormer sooner and swifter. As he begins losing sleep for days at a time, he is contacted by Walter Finch (Robin Williams), a writer and the person responsible for the girl’s death, but he is also the person that may get Dormer out of trouble.

In my opinion, the real star of this movie is the cinematographer, Wally Pfister, who’s went on to work with Nolan on every one of his movies since Insomnia. Being a neo-noir film, you would think that there would be a lot of shadows and darkness, but the interesting twist of taking place in an area where the sun doesn’t set gives Pfister a lot of room to play around with light and shadow in a way unconventional to the genre. The Alaskan setting is also filmed beautifully with mountains, lakes, and forests contrasted with small towns give the film a unique look. The best looking part of the movie is a chase through fog which gives the viewers the same sense of uncertainty as the characters.

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I need to give credit to Al Pacino and Robin Williams here too. They both knock it out of the park with their roles. Now, this may sound kind of naïve, but I was expecting that with Al Pacino. I always look at Robin Williams as more of a funny man, although I’m aware of his professional training in acting and his work in dramas before, but never a murder mystery. I was really into his performance here and he actually did a great job at making me feel uncomfortable.

Insomnia is a movie with a multi-layered story. There is a whole lot happening in the movie that you really need to wrap your head around all of it, and that isn’t always easy. That being said, I really like the story in this and it is perfect for Christopher Nolan’s direction, who’s always had a talent with dealing with strange situations. Still, compared to Nolan’s other pieces like The Dark Knight Trilogy and The PrestigeInsomnia doesn’t quite hold up to them. It just doesn’t have the power that his other films have, nor does it have a very satisfying conclusion.

Christopher Nolan’s remake of Insomnia is a cool movie with a lot of cool ideas and a plot that takes it just a step further with all of its devices and twists. Something just doesn’t let it sit in the upper echelons of modern film with Nolan’s other movies. This is a more than adequate neo-noir psychological thriller, but it just didn’t really go as far as I wanted it to. Maybe that has to do with the conclusion which just sort of happens, leaving the movie to just drop off. Still, if you’re interested in Nolan’s work then Insomnia is a movie you should check out, even if it’s just to see it once.

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Good Will Hunting – Review

10 Jan

To me, Good Will Hunting is an example of an almost perfect movie. Almost every aspect of this piece of work fits wonderfully into place to create a moving, personal, yet funny coming of age story. The cast is excellent and the dialogue is superbly written. There are a few plot devices that keep it from reaching new filmic heights, and that’s very unfortunate concerning the rest of the movie.

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Will Hunting (Matt Damon) is a janitor at MIT who is housing a very special talent that is discovered by Professor Gerald Lambeau (Stellan Skarsgård). Will is proficient in all kinds of math and has a vast amount of knowledge on history, literature, and art. Pretty much the whole intellectual package. The problem with Will is that he lacks the motivation to use it, a problem that seems to be deeper than Will originally thought. Lambeau recruits help in the form of  Sean Maguire (Robin Williams), his old college room mate who has had problems getting ahead himself. Together, the two men will dig deeper into Will’s subconscious, guarded better than Helm’s Deep, to find out what is really holding him back.

Saying this movie has a definite point A to point B plot wouldn’t be giving the film any justice. Damon and Ben Affleck have crafted an excellent screenplay that isn’t only about Will’s hidden potential. It’s about Will and everyone else that is affected by Will’s ability. This mainly is a coming of age story, but it’s also a story of how one person can have such an affect on someone’s life, even if they aren’t in it for very long. It’s an age old story that is perfected by Damon, Affleck, and director Gus van Sant.

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When I say that this is an age old story, I really mean that it fits a very specific formula. Right when the movie started, I pretty much knew exactly what was going to happen. I could call how and when the low points were going to happen, and when the solutions to these problems came along, I was not surprised. I’m not trying to say that all movies should be shocking or bring something new to the table, but I think following a dramatic formula to a T should be avoided.

I will say that Good Will Hunting takes this formula and through its exceptional performances and writing makes it something special. This movie set a new standard for how these kinds of movies should be made. What makes a film like Mallrats so special? It’s pretty conventional when it comes to its plot, but its characters and dialogue are what makes the movie great. Good Will Hunting does the same thing. Matt Damon and Robin Williams’ chemistry are excellent and you can forget you’re watching two actors playing a part. Stellan Skarsgård and Minnie Driver also give excellent performances. Casey Affleck may have a small part, but definitely outshines his brother, Ben.

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Good Will Hunting may not be perfect, but it certainly is better than the average drama. The characters and their chemistry burn greatly and their dialogue is whip smart. Thankfully, the movie never gets overdramatic, and there is always some comedy to give us a breath of fresh air after an intense scene. This has become a modern day classic since it was released in 1997, and it has aged very well. If, by some chance, you haven’t seen this movie, definitely give it a watch. It’s inspiring on many different levels.