Memento, a smart, stylish neo-noir about a vengeful widower with memory problems that told its story backwards, proved director Christopher Nolan could work wonders with an original idea and a decent gimmick. Now Insomnia, a fairly straightforward and much more linear remake of a recent Norwegian thriller, shows Nolan can be just as compelling when he’s reworking more conventional material. This film marks one of those rare moments when a European story works fairly well in the hands of an American cast; perhaps the fact that Nolan is British helped.
The main character in both films is a cop who travels north of the Arctic Circle during the summer, when the sun never sets, to investigate a murder. There, he does something, quite by accident, that he is desperate to cover up; and thanks to the harsh, unforgiving light that never stops pouring in through his hotel room window, despite his best efforts to block it out, he is sleepless with guilt. The hallucinations he begins to have, in his sleep-deprived state, don’t help either.