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Insomnia (2002)

R  |   |  Mystery, Thriller  |  24 May 2002 (USA)
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Ratings: 7.2/10 from 207,246 users   Metascore: 78/100
Reviews: 645 user | 184 critic | 36 from Metacritic.com

Two Los Angeles homicide detectives are dispatched to a northern town where the sun doesn't set to investigate the methodical murder of a local teen.



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Oliver 'Ole' Zemen ...
Chief Nyback
Fred Duggar
Larry Holden ...
Officer #1
Andrew Campbell ...
Officer #2
Mrs. Connell


Sent from the city to investigate the murder of a teenage girl in a small Alaska town, a police detective (Pacino) accidentally shoots his own partner while trying to apprehend a suspect. Instead of admitting his guilt, the detective is given an unexpected alibi, but this "solution" only multiplies the emotional complexity and guilt over his partner's death. He's also still got a murder to solve, in addition to the blackmail and framing of an innocent bystander being orchestrated by the man they were chasing. There's also a local detective (Swank) who is conducting her own personal investigation... of his partner's death. Will it all come crashing down on him? Written by greg Dean Scmitz

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


A tough cop. A brilliant killer. An unspeakable crime. See more »


Mystery | Thriller

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for language, some violence and brief nudity | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:






Release Date:

24 May 2002 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Insomnia - Schlaflos  »

Filming Locations:


Box Office


$46,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend:

$26,068,419 (USA) (24 May 2002)


$4,663,332 (France) (6 December 2002)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

| |


Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Insomnia (2002) and Following (1998) are the only movies directed by Christopher Nolan that are not listed in IMDb's Top 250 as of 2015. His other 7 movies are a part of the best 250 movies ever made as voted by IMDb users. See more »


On the ferry, the Pacino character and the Williams character have a long discussion. Outside the window of the ferry the foreshore scenery does not move, yet they are supposed to be sailing somewhere. See more »


[first lines]
Hap Eckhart: There's just nothing down there. Nothing. I haven't seen a building in, like, 20 minutes. Look at that.
Will Dormer: We're not on vacation, Hap. Remember?
See more »


References Touch of Evil (1958) See more »


Written by Guy Berryman, Jon Buckland, Will Champion, Chris Martin
Performed by Coldplay
Courtesy of EMI Records Ltd.
Under license from EMI-Capitol Music Special Markets
See more »

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User Reviews

An intense character study set against a psychological 'cat and mouse' game... that
24 May 2002 | by (Montreal, Canada) – See all my reviews

Christopher Nolan succeeds once again at mastering a suspenseful script into a truly superb film. Nolan (Memento) creates a complex and carefully construed tale that has plenty of intentional misdirection that is quite convincing.

Al Pacino plays another one of his droopy detectives in a role that is quite unoriginal if placed in other films. Yet what separates this role from others is his portrayal of L.A. Detective Will Dormer actually has some 'meat' attached to it. Pacino plays a detective with a history of successful apprehensions, yet, he has flaws just like any other person and they come back to haunt him. Relocated from Los Angeles to Alaska, he is sent in hopes of capturing a killer who murdered a local schoolgirl.

Judging from the previews, premature assumptions can be made labeling the film as another simple 'cat-and-mouse' thriller. Instead, those conceptions will be lost soon after the haunting opening credits emerge and we are transplanted directly into a deep and complex character study set against the backdrop of a local homicide mystery in a small Alaskan town. The film's antagonist (For those who have seen the film - is he really the villain or the catalyst for Pacino's ethical debate?) is a local writer portrayed by Robin Williams. This is Williams' second villainous role in his trilogy of films (Death to Smoochy, One Hour Photo) that aims at diversifying his resume. Williams impresses as he juxtaposes between an innocent victim of a mishap and between a calculating and conniving murderer.

Director Nolan has assembled a terrific cast as this complex plot unfolds at a frivolous rate. This is a film that a discerning viewer will admire and a viewer with a short attention span will loathe. Nolan tosses us with one set of objectives and midway through the first act, we are sitting in on an entirely different film. Adjectives such as formulaic and conventional should not be associated with a film such as this. Nolan has completely revitalized the tired genre of the murder thriller with his sleek direction and picturesque photography.

Nolan first had conceived of the idea upon viewing a Norwegian film of the same name directed by Erik Skjoldbjaerg. Nolan seems to have taken the flaws of the original and improved upon them in a sleek feat of filmmaking that leaves much to be questioned about its' brilliance. One viewing is not enough to internalize the level of sophistication Nolan has created with this brilliant film.

Hillary Seitz's first attempt at writing a screenplay is solid but must be understood that the conception was not hers. Still, her script contains some juicy scenes that benefit all our characters in this film. Three Oscar winners (Pacino, Williams and Hillary Swank) highlight this film and with good reason. At first glance, the cast seems informingly incongruent, yet with time, all explains itself. Swank's performance as Detective Burr seems unnecessary right up until the final moments in the film. Yet, this is all of the resolute brilliance Nolan lends to this film.

This film succeeds on several levels of cinematic bravura. David Julyan's haunting score coupled with intense subliminal flashes match the films' dark tone and Cinematographer Wally Pfister (Memento) captures the majestic beauty of the Alaskan sea front.

As aforementioned, a thrilling chase of a murderer can be expected when introduced to the film. But not long after, we are delving into a debate that has a positive fix on morality. A battle between a person's conscience and his actions are truly at the forefront of this intellectually intriguing and complex thriller. Despite its' disappointing anticlimactic finale, the film still has enough zest and brilliance to make this film a true testament to the skill of Director Nolan.

Giancarlo's Rating: ***

83 of 106 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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