THRILLER INSOMNIA (15) 118min 0000
Having impressed the hell out of us with the ingenious backwards- unspooling murder mystery Memento, young Londoner Christopher Nolan redirects the Norwegian thriller Insomnia, filtering that tale of homicide in a cold place through the American crime movie genre. As smartly replotted by screenwriter Hillary Seitz, the film centres on a battle of wills between Al Pacino’s veteran cop and Walter Finch, a disturbingly normal killer (if that isn’t an oxymoron) played by Robin Williams.
When a teenage girl is found murdered in the northern Alaskan township of Nightmute, Pacino’s LAPD detective Will Dormer (a play on the French verb dormir, ‘to sleep’) is packed off to the land of the midnight sun to assist officer Ellie Burr (Hilary Swank) and the other local yokels with their investigation. Dormer himself is being investigated by the Internal Affairs division back home, something which leads to a falling out between the cop and his younger partner Hap Eckhart
WAR MOVIE WINDTALKERS (15) 134min 0..
The release of John Woo's Windta/kers has wisely been put back sufficiently far enough to distance it from the likes Of We were Soldiers and Black Hawk Down (released around the same time). both of which it resembles in terms of sheer firepower and onscreen blood-si')lattering effects.
The distinguishing factor is that Wi'ndta/kers has a genuinely fascinating historical background. Set in Saipan. 1942, it centres on a pair of Navaio Native Americans (Adam Beach and Roger Willie). who are recruited as marines and trained to use a secret military code based on their own language (this code was. apparently. the only one never to be broken by the Japanese and was censidered a crucial factor in Winning the war).
Each ‘code talker' is also assigned an accompanying marine. with orders to. ‘protect the code at all costs'. ie to kill the code talker should they fall into enemy hands. Which means that. in true Hollywood fashion. although the heroes of the film are clearly the code talkers themselves. their story is told through focussing on their (white) bodyguards. played by Nicolas Cage and Christian Slater.
Ultimately. what could have been a truly interesting story ends up getting lost in a sea of war movie cliches. As expected. Woo delivers on the action scenes but it's strictly gung-ho. Boy's Own stuff.
That said. it's well-acted and sufficiently interesting to sustain its lengthy running time. (Matthew Turner)
I General release from Fri 30 Aug.
Lost in a sea of war movie cliches
(Martin Donovan). It doesn’t help Dormer’s increasingly frazzled emotional state that in this land of perpetual daylight he can’t get to sleep. So when, as the partners chase to the killer along a fog- shrouded Alaskan coastline, Dormer shoots and kills Eckhart, it’s not at all clear whether it was accidental. And, unfortunately for Dormer, the event is witnessed by the criminal he was pursuing. And here’s where the film gets really clever: both cop and killer blur the line between right and wrong, so that much of the suspense is derived from whether
Here’s where the film gets really clever
or not the men will take responsibility for their actions. In this respect the casting of the leads against type, especially in the case of sappy, saccharine Williams, is pure genius.
Meanwhile, Nolan balances the script’s fine characterisation and thematic concerns with some stunning set pieces, most notably Dormer’s pursuit of Finch across - and beneath - a fast-moving log flow of river-bound timber. It all makes for uncommonly well-crafted Hollywood cinema. (Miles Feilder) I General release from Fri 30 Aug. See Festival feature.
About as funny as a beheadin
COMEDY THE BLACK KNIGHT (PG) 95min 0
The funniest thing abOut this so-called comedy is that such an iinplausil‘)le pitch —- a greedy black American Janitor goes back in time to become a knight in the year 1.326 and helps overthrow an eVil king - got green-iighted :n the first place. Lawrence. whose run of fine comic turns ended with the recently released l’V/iat's tlie l'/orst that Could Happen. continues his poor form. Worse. the fine British actor Tom Wilkinson. here playing retired knight Knolte. matches Lawrence's iiwei_)titude.
Lawrence plays Jamal who works in a modern day amusement park with a medieval theme (see the Joke comr'ig a mile off?) He finds an amulet that inexplicably transports him back in time — and over the Atlantic — to England, where he is mistaken for a messenger from Normandy. Subsequently. Jamal achieves celebrity status after he inadvertently saves the king (Kevin Conway) but also JOIS involved with the anti-monarchy resistance when he falls for chambermaid Victoria (Marsha Thomason). And so trouble dogs Jamal's every move. not least when he's caught .n bed with the king's daughter. After this llllSdOlllOilllOtll the man out of time is forced to lead a rebellion in order to \.'."|l‘. V|(Ii()"l£l back.
The film's attempts at humour are all derived from Jamal trying to bring some modern day ghetto savvy into the medieval setting. He trains the troops with sk:lls honed on the sports field, and gives some ‘soul' to the King's musicians. If it doesn't sound funny that's because it isn't. The only gags with any semblance of humour are racial ones. but even these are \.'-rorryingly stereotypical. (Kaleem Aftabi I General release from In 2’3 Aug.
COMEDY BIG TROUBLE (12) 85min 0..
Barry Sonnenfeld's bonkers but otherwise harmless comedy crime caper fell foul of the S) f t backlash because a crucial scene involves smuggling a nuclear device onto a plane. under the noses of incompetent security staff. The real mystery. however, is how it had avoided the attentions Of the plot police? Carl Hiaasen—style screwball logic is one thing. but a Miami setting and a barrelful of cheap laughs cannot wholly excuse a storyline which features. among other things. a sleazy foot fetishist. two Russian arms dealers. a frustrated ad man. his beautiful but neglected wife. their precociously jaded daughter. two uptight FBI men operating under Special Executive Order ‘r'bB—dash-O/l. a toad whose projectile saliva induces hallucuiations of domestic goddess Martha Stewart. a couple of fish-out-of- water New Jersey hitmen. a homeless guy who lives in a tree. a female cop who wears sexy lingerie under her uniform. goats on the Miami highway and a pair of dumb local hoodlums ('Snake. let's get outta here. I think I hear one of them silent alarms"). The weird thing is. it all sort of makes sense at the time: it's only afterwards that you wonder if someone slipped psychedelic drugs into your pre- screening drink. Less disciplined than Get Shorty. far funnier than Men in Black 2. and cra/ier than a sackful of feral cats. (Nigel Floyd) I General release from Fri 30 Aug.
"~ Sm: THE LIST 15