Sunday, 13 December 2009

88 Minutes

My favourite Al Pacino film is Insomnia, which I really enjoyed. The more recent serial killer movie 88 Minutes is not in the same league, but it is certainly one of fastest and most furious thrillers I’ve watched in a long time. The critics didn’t much care for it, but the pace is so frenetic that you tend not to notice some of the flaws – or the fact that it lasts rather longer than its title suggests.

Pacino plays Dr Jack Gramm, a forensics expert who combines an academic career with a sideline working for the FBI. He has – surprise, surprise – a deeply troubled past, from which he has fled to Seattle, where he enjoys a formidable reputation and a complex sex life. Nine years ago he gave crucial testimony which helped to convict a man accused of being ‘The Seattle Slayer’, a murderer with a penchant for trussing young women up and torturing them. The appeal process has now been exhausted, and the killer is about to be executed when a further killing occurs which bears all the hallmarks of The Seattle Slayer.

The victim is one of Gramm’s students, and soon he receives a phone call telling him that he has just 88 minutes to live. (88 minutes, we learn later on, is a time period which has deep significance for him.) What follows is a dramatic ‘clock-race’, and Gramm becomes understandably paranoid as he narrowly avoids being blown up in a car, and is framed for two murders in quick succession. Someone is out to get him – but who? There are plenty of potential suspects, and I didn’t guess the culprit, though a cynic might say that is because the explanation is so far-fetched.

Overall, for me this film was something of a guilty pleasure. I can see that the story is, when considered in the cold light of day, implausible in the extreme. And Pacino’s hair is as frantic as the action. But 88 Minutes kept me interested all the same. That’s the merit of the ‘clock-race’, in either a film or a novel. You can’t help wanting to know how it will all end.


Philip Amos said...

I watched Insomnia just last week. Having rather looked forward to doing so, I was much disappointed, though I found elements to enjoy. The problem for me was the...insomnia. I've had the condition for some 20 years, and for many of them I've slept only two or three hours out of 24, usually in the late evening, and sometimes no hours at all. My circadian cycle is now completely broken, and in virtue of that I've managed to adjust over time. And so, I found Pacino becoming catatonic and irrational, not to say downright loopy, after a couple of nights' lousy sleep very hard to believe. Pacino might just be a wimp, of course. Chuckle.

He's actually a favourite actor of mine, and of actors in movies I don't have many favourites at all, so I should seek out 88 Minutes. But one thing you don't mention, Martin -- what does he actually do for the FBI? Not a profiler, is he? Not part of the biggest con in the history of modern law enforcement? That might put me off.

Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

I'm an insomniac too, but I did enjoy the movie. It *might* have been a little implausible, though.

Have you seen "Memento"? Same director as "Insomnia" if memory serves.

Mystery Writing is Murder

Anonymous said...

Martin - Pacino is one of my favorite actors; I've seen him in several films, most recently in Righteous Kill. I didn't see 88 Minutes, although it seemed interesting when it was released, but it sounds as though the film certainly keeps the viewer guessing and keeps the suspense strong. I'll have to rent this one...

Maxine Clarke said...

I recently saw Insomnia on a plane - the prefect movie for an insomniac (in common with some of your other commenters!) on a Transatlantic flight. I liked it a lot but could not help wishing I'd seen the Norwegian original on which it was based, instead. I suppose this is because I think that Hollywood (or US) remakes are never as good as the mainland European originals, based on quite a few examples (Three Men and a Baby, for example, is much funnier and politically incorrect in the French version than the US one.)

I haven't seen 88 minutes and am not keen on serial killers as a genre whatever the medium (hence, I have not seen Seven) - but given your review I might well try to catch this one, perhaps on TV if it is at that stage yet.

Al Pacino is not my favourite actor but he was in one of my favourite films of all time, Sea of Love (with Ellen Barkin). That is a very good crime film, indeed. A paradigm, one might say.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Please watch the Norwegian version on Insomnia, which is so much better IMHO.

john wall said...

I thought 88 minutes was a clever, supsenseful movie, but it didnt quite live up to my expectations. Al carried the movie, but the ending was a little lackluster.

seana graham said...

I liked the movie Insomnia quite a lot, though I heard even at the time that the original Norwegian version was better. I haven't ever gotten around to seeing it.

I suppose the movie must have been written by a non- or neophyte insomniac, as those of us who are used to sleeping pretty well may get more disoriented by the state of sleep-deprivation than those of you who really live it. I seem to get more insomniac as I get older, though, and I do find that it doesn't really seem to result in much impairment.

I am currently reading Jacques Barzun's From Dawn to Decadence, which is on the last 500 years of Western culture. In his preface, he credits the "sheer accidents" of longevity and insomnia in helping him formulate key insights.

Some people see the upside to everything.

book review said...

what's a good version?

Martin Edwards said...

Thanks for these comments. Some very interesting observations. I'm not aware of the Norwegian film, but seems like I really ought to seek it out.