This week's news has focused on the unexpected and tragic death of Academy Award winning actor Robin Williams, who took his own life at the age of 63. Many of the televised retrospectives of his career have focused on his most celebrated and often comedic parts. However, over the course of his thirty plus year career, Williams delivered many noteworthy dramatic performances. An example is “Insomnia,” from 2002.
In “Insomnia,” Al Pacino plays Will Dormer, an LAPD detective who goes with his partner, Hap Eckhart (played by Martin Donovan), to a small Alaskan town to help investigate the murder of a teenage girl. Helping them is a novice local cop, Ellie Burr (played by Hilary Swank). One of the suspects is Walter Finch (played by Williams), a local writer who was a friend of the victim. On a foggy day, he is almost apprehended by Dormer and the other cops. Just before he is about to be caught, Dormer, who is coping with sleep deprivation, accidentally shoots and kills someone. The only person who saw him do it was Finch, who decides to use this to his advantage.
“Insomnia” is very well directed by Christopher Nolan. He creates a dark and moody atmosphere, even though the film is set during the summer in Alaska when it is almost always sunny.
Al Pacino is great as Will Dormer. He is known for being very over-the-top in many of his performances, but here, he is much more subdued. We see that he is haunted by his past. Robin Williams is equally strong. He was also known for being flamboyant in a lot of his movies, but like Pacino, his work here is low-key. Williams does a good job showing how disturbed his character is. Hilary Swank also gives a memorable performance. Ellie looks up to Will, a veteran detective.
Watching “Insomnia” is a good way to honor the range of Robin Williams’ contributions to cinema.