Warner Brothers Home Video, $26.98
BRITISH DIRECTOR Christopher Nolan was the visionary behind Memento, so, damn straight, we're gonna hold him to lofty standards. Like many new-school Grizzled Cop vs. Taunting Killer confections, his star-fueled follow-up Insomnia (out Oct. 15) owes its body and soul to Silence of the Lambs and Seven. In one of this single-disc's five scene-specific audio commentaries, screenwriter Hillary Seitz suggests Insomnia is a "remake of the subtext" of the 1997 Norwegian original, but the translation is obvious: She Americanized it.
Despite these initial strikes, Insomnia resonates. Cinematographer Wally Pfister—he of a soft-core-porn background!--paints the abstractions of moral ambiguity just as well as stars Al Pacino and Robin Williams. During the featurette In the Fog, Pfister admits that dumb luck facilitated a pivotal early shoot-out; by pumping too much smoke onto a woodland location, he "soaked" the inconsistent Alaskan sun, establishing a consistently overcast look for the remainder of the shoot.
The leads contribute informative anecdotes, most memorably Pacino in an ass-kissing sit-down with Nolan about body language in theater vs. film. Pacino's lovable, rambling non sequiturs are later made sense of in editor Dody Dorn's commentary. Insomnia teeters on Pacino's guilt—and subsequent inability to sleep—for inadvertently committing a murder, and Dorn's subtle inserts of guilty sideways glances keep the focus on character rather than police- procedural drudgery.
Perhaps in a nod to Memento and his similarly fragmented 1998 debut Following, Nolan's commentary is unconventionally arranged via order of shooting. A better tribute, Chris? Direct your own story next time.
LOUIS MALLE directed Chekhov, not his own story, to pretty good effect in 1994's Vanya on 42nd Street, which finally arrived on disc Sept. 24 (no extras). Oct. 15 brings dreck like Sorority Boys and Life or Something Like It (starring Steve Pool and half the KOMO news crew alongside Angelina Jolie). Better bets are the Dogma romantic comedy Italian for Beginners and the spiritual granddaddy to Austin Powers—1967's Casino Royale, with extras including the 1954 TV adaptation of the original Ian Fleming novel. John Woo's underperforming Windtalkers also reaches DVD, a decent WWII yarn for guys who like WWII yarns.