Insomnia by director Christopher Nolan is a hidden gem and one of his lesser known works. While Nolan is mostly known for his epic action pieces like The Dark Knight franchise or his sci-fi themed dramas like Inception, Insomnia is a modern take on noir, mystery crime thrillers. The film features a star studded cast that includes Al Pacino, Robin Williams, and Hillary Swank.
The plot centers around Will Dormer, a veteran detective with a troubled past who agrees to help out an old friend with a case in a remote Alaskan town. There he finds that a young girl has been murdered, and it is up to him to find the girl’s killer. While attempting to track down the culprit, he soon finds that the tables have turned, as the killer has learned of a terrible mistake that Detective Dormer is responsible for. The killer uses this information as leverage and blackmails the troubled detective into helping him attempt to clear his name from growing police suspicion.
Detective Dormer struggles with the guilt of his crime and his sense of duty in bringing the killer to justice. The tension of the film builds due to the location and time of year: in Alaska during the summer months, it remains bright and sunny even at night. Along the way, a young local detective named Ellie Burr (Hillary Swank) who idolizes Dormer begins to suspect that things are not what they seem with the veteran officer. The film ends with a long anticipated showdown between Dormer and the killer, culminating into a dramatic confrontation.
This film tends to fly under most people’s radar and is usually eclipsed by Christopher Nolan’s more famous works, but I find it quite thought provoking and the acting is spot on. The intensity and depth of the characters is remarkably both genuine and realistic. The film still stands at a solid 92% on the website Rotten Tomatoes.
Insomnia is a great addition to Mr. Nolan’s filmography; it’s an engaging thriller and not your average murder mystery. It is available at the Union University Library and rated R for violence and language.
If you’ve been watching popular movies for the last few years, you’ll know that the Jurassic Park franchise continues to inspire and terrify millions of viewers. But did you know that the Jurassic Park movies were based on books by Michael Crichton?
Michael Crichton was a Harvard Medical School graduate who started writing books (and later directing films) instead of practicing medicine. Due to his scientific background, many of his books include detailed accounts of medical procedures and the science behind genetics, psychological disorders, and new technology. While not as popular as the Jurassic Park series, Crichton’s 1972 novel, The Terminal Man, is still a great example of Crichton’s medical knowledge and his writing expertise.
The Terminal Man is the curious story of Harry Benson, a man who suffers from intense seizures where he attacks others and mental delusions as the result of an accident. Benson is taken to a hospital for a new “stage three” procedure, where eager Doctor Ellis will perform surgery to implant a computer in Benson. This computer is expected to calm Benson’s seizures. However, there is great concern from his psychiatrist, Doctor Ross, that Benson will not be cured and may in fact grow more violent and mentally ill than before. To complicate things even further, Benson’s specific delusions are that computers and technology are actively trying to take over mankind- yet he agrees to having a computer placed in his body.
The “stage three” procedure is described in detail, but Crichton’s writing makes it easy to read and understand even if you’re not a Harvard Medical School student. Crichton also writes from the the third person omniscient point of view, so you can catch a glimpse of several characters’ motivations and worries throughout. It’s a fast-paced read, and the sense of dread surrounding Benson’s odd situation will keep you turning each page until the end. What will happen to Benson? Could his violence have an agenda? What are the philosophical implications of making a computer’s terminal out of a man? Will the new technology help or hurt others?
If you’re interested in this science fiction thriller, you can check it out from the library. View our catalog to see if it’s available!