It was an accident, because actually from Dormer's point of view, we don't see the man, we don't understand who he is.
But when he discovered the truth looking at the body, inside he thought that the situation was not so bad, given the fact his colleague was going to ruin his career and his life (in his opinion, but we know that he destroyed that himself, long time before coming to Alaska).
I don't think you're really supposed to know. I mean, Dormer doesn't even know. If I had to pick one, it would probably be accidental, purely because if it wasn't, the film would not be driven very well and it would almost seem dumb.
My belief is that it was indeed purely accidental. In the end when Burr asks Dormer if the killing was intended, Dormer replies, "I don't know anymore...". His sleep deprivation and insomnia have drowned out his mind of the true answer. When the incident did happen, it was most definitely an accident. Afterwards, his subconscious questions itself if it was intended or not.
Cilogy wrote:If you watch it with Nolan's commentary, he says Pacino plays the scene in an ambiguous way. You can essentially watch the scene in two ways; Dormer intended to kill Hap, or it was an accident
Looking at Pacino's expressions this is very clear, brilliant acting on his part.
Lets see... he can't see in the fog and he made a choice to fire. Now that was just a mistake on his part. You don't shoot what you can't see. He didn't want to kill the man.
He felt like shit for the rest of the film.. living the lie. Then before he can die he pleads to make sure the truth is known. He made a mistake. He didn't cill his parner on purpose.
I also think he feels guilty because he very much would have loved at one point to put a round in the guy. I love the look he gives him at the table. But no when it really came down to it he didn't want to kill him.