You might expect Insomnia, a homicide thriller from Norway to be chilly, brooding, full of elegant intimations of psychosexual pathology. The surprise of Erik Skjoldbjaerg’s dazzlingly accomplished first feature is that it draws those very qualities out of a scenario rich with Hitchcockian trickiness and manipulative finesse. Stellan Skarsgard, the strapping, robustly earthy costar of Breaking the Waves and Good Will Hunting, creates an entirely different mood of prehensile anxiety as Jonas Engström, a Swedish police detective who journeys to Norway to help solve the gruesome murder of a teenage girl. When Jonas, pursuing his suspect through a foggy fjord, accidentally shoots and kills his own partner, he attempts to cover up his guilt by spinning an increasingly threadbare web of evasions and lies, which ultimately lead him into bartering communion with the killer himself. Skjoldbjaerg’s fusion of eroticized moodiness and delicately unfolding chessboard logic recalls PBS’ Prime Suspect and movies like Michael Mann’s Manhunter and Paul Verhoeven’s The Fourth Man. Insomnia is occasionally a bit too saturnine, but should this filmmaker choose to go Hollywood, there’s every chance that he’ll be major. A-

Insomnia (Movie - 1997)
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