Often described as the "Master of Horror", director Dario Argento's crown has been slipping in recent years with such deeply disappointing films as "The Stendahl Syndrome" and "The Phantom of the Opera". With "Sleepless", Dario returns to his traditional 'giallo' roots, after an absence of 20 years. He shouldn't have stayed away so long because this is the type of thriller he excels in.
As with any good Argento film, the plot is quite simple but ends up becoming somewhat mangled along the way. He has and will always be a director who, at his best, is capable of creating scenes of stunning atmospheric tension, but often at the expense of a coherent story line.
All you need to know is that Max Von Sydow is a police detective who comes out of retirement to try and solve the case of a serial killer who makes an unwelcome return to society.
Hang onto that idea, and then steel yourself for an opening 20 minutes that really are the stuff of nightmares. His ability to turn an ordinary commuter train into a sinister lair for a serial killer sits disturbingly in the subconscious. Meanwhile, the prowling camerawork, the relentless music score, and uncompromising moments of mayhem attack the senses with vicious flair.
If this movie commits one crime, it's that the rest of it is never quite as good as the bravura opening. Don't let your guard down, though, because there are some cruelly well executed set-pieces that are enrobed in a constant sense of dread. Plus, Max Von Sydow puts in a fine performance reminiscent of his best work that lifts any of the film's slightly weaker moments.