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Do Not Sleep
Chrysanthepop6 May 2008
I didn't know that 'Insomnia' was based on a Norwegian movie of the same title. Otherwise, I would have watched the original film first. What convinced me to watch this one was the cast that included three super-talented actors and the director Christopher Nolan ('loved his 'Memento'). Thus, my comment is pretty much just about the movie rather than how it compares to the original.

There's really a lot to like about. This isn't merely a 'catch-the-bad-guy' thriller but a character driven psychological drama. It starts as a who done it, then turns into a how done it to why done it to what are you going to do about it. While it is the complex characters that stand out, the details of the murder case(s) are very well presented and the layered twists add well to the plot. 'Insomnia' is fascinating to look at. The production design is of very high quality and the cinematography is breathtaking. The attention to detail and the emphasis of the visuals that make the viewer experience Dormer's sleep deprived world is stunning. Incidentally, I was watching it very late at night and perhaps that is the best time to watch it.

Nolan's style of execution is remarkable. Daylight is used very effectively as a character of its own. In a way, it's the antagonist of the movie that leads to Dormer's mental 'deterioration'. It's a dark movie set in constant daylight. Then there's the clever use of fog and floating logs which in a way act as pathetic fallacies. Blood also plays a symbolic role. The quietness of a cold and gloomy Alaska is both intense and chilling.

Al Pacino proves again what an excellent actor he is. It's amazing how he eerily looks the part with bags under his eyes, a clumsy gait, stooped shoulders and a continuous expression of fatigue while he dives into the depth of an extremely complex character. Robin Williams skillfully downplays his part as the latently manipulative Finch as he takes advantage of Dormer's vulnerability. Hillary Swank brings an air of freshness as the rookie detective who also has to make a difficult decision towards the end. Maura Tierney makes very good use of her few scenes.

On the flip side, it may seem as though 'Insomnia' loses focus in some scenes as it appears to derail. Of course there are different ways of looking at this. The ending feels rushed and is very predictable. Also Williams's Finch could have been more developed considering the important role he has. Nonetheless, it's a well-made film. I intend to watch the Norwegian version to see how it compares but on its own, Nolan's 'Insomnia' is a fascinating experience and the cast and crew deserve all the praise for finally putting it all together.
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Nolan can now be considered one of the best!
Soltes2524 May 2002
INSOMNIA is not only the third film of acclaimed director Christopher Nolan (his first two were FOLLOWINGS and MEMENTO), but also a film that is able to intertwine the acting talents of three Academy Award winners. Al Pacino plays a celebrated cop who is asked to work on the case of a murdered girl in Alaska. Hilary Swank plays the local law enforcement who has her eyes on making a big case. Robin Williams plays a troubled Alaskan writer. Without giving anything away, INSOMNIA is definitely worth it. Some may see it, and be disappointed. One way to steer away from this failure is think of INSOMNIA as a psychological thriller rather than a "Shoot 'em up" thriller. INSOMNIA is story about loyalty and human emotion. Don't get me wrong, the movie is thrill-packed, but let's just say--You don't need blood and gore to make the audience members be on the edge of their seats (which I was). INSOMNIA hits all of its points including acting, directing, screenwriting, and cinematography. It's a first class thriller with great characters. On a side note...Pacino is worthy of an Oscar for his performance, Williams is equally excellent, and Swank also deserves recognition for complete scope of acting. A job well done by these three actors, and especially the man behind the curtain, Christopher Nolan!
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Excellent Performances, Especially Williams
gbheron19 September 2002
One doesn't expect to feel claustrophobic in Alaska, but that's exactly the effect when watching "Insomnia". The primary story is about the police investigation of the murder of a high-school girl in a small Alaskan town. Through the pull of old acquaintances and political necessity, two LA homicide detectives (Pacino and Martin Donovan) are dispatched to the scene to help the locals. The political necessity concerns a graft investigation in which the two LA detectives are key suspects. One is thinking of copping a plea, so they are spirited out of LA to avoid the investigative light. Then they find themselves in the 24-hour day of the Alaskan summer where the two plot lines collide; the murder investigation and the graft. And what a collision it is.

The insomnia of the title is suffered by the Pacino character, who can't sleep during the movie's 7-day span. And each day his eyes are more sunken, he's groggier, less focused. This parallels his descent into guilt, remorse, and desperation. But to provide any more details would be to give away key plot elements. "Insomnia" is gripping and it's best to see the movie cold.

The acting, especially Robin Williams as the key suspect in the child slaying, is top notch. Williams is made for these roles, he should kiss the suck-up feel-good stuff goodbye for good. The photography is excellent, Alaska never looked so ominous, and the direction delivers the goods. Highly recommended.
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a masterful psychological thriller
Roland E. Zwick16 June 2002
Like the 1997 Norwegian film on which it is based, `Insomnia' is a superbly crafted crime thriller, one that is more concerned with the psychological complexities of its main character than with the minutiae of the criminal investigation itself - though the details of the case are fascinating in their own right as well.

Al Pacino delivers his finest performance in years in the role of Detective Will Dormer, a seasoned homicide investigator brought in from Los Angeles to help solve the murder of a seventeen-year-old high school student in rural Alaska. The problem is that, back in L.A., Dormer is facing some heat of his own from LAPD's Internal Affairs Division, which is beginning a probe into the propriety of some of the veteran's actions on the job. Back in Alaska, while on a stakeout to nab the possible killer, Dormer becomes disoriented in the fog and ends up accidentally shooting and killing his longtime partner, a colleague who, Dormer had just learned, was planning to cooperate with the IA investigation back home, thereby bringing about the possible ruination of Dormer's career and reputation. Caught off guard by this sudden turn of events, Dormer suddenly finds himself in the unfamiliar role of perpetrator, looking for ways to cover up a `crime' rather than unravel it. One of the compelling themes of the film is its insistence that only a very thin line separates those who commit crimes from those whose job it is to uncover and prosecute the wrongdoers.

Dormer is stunned to find how quickly and easily he can cross over that line. The outstanding screenplay by Nikolaj Frobenius and Erik Skjoldbjaerg really knows how to get into the minds and emotions of its characters, particularly in the case of Dormer, who turns out to be one of the most psychologically complex and fascinating figures we have encountered in the movies in a long, long time. Here is a man who has built his name and career on knowing how to unravel complex crimes, always priding himself on being one step ahead of the criminals who are so convinced they have left no traces behind which could point to their guilt. Yet, now Dormer finds himself in the same boat, as he anxiously looks for ways to hide the fact that he shot - even accidentally - a man who had the power to bring him down. As the story develops, Dormer, whom we assume at the start is innocent of the charges for which he is being investigated by Internal Affairs, begins to seem less and less innocent and more and more capable of doing just exactly what it is he is being accused of. Yet, the triumph of the film is that Pacino and the screenwriters never let us feel we know all there is to know about Dormer. He is truly a man of mystery, so tightly coiled that even he doesn't know or understand all that is going on in the deepest, darkest recesses of his psyche. By setting the film in the summer near the Arctic Circle, the filmmakers are able to provide a natural phenomenon to help aggravate Dormer's potentially psychotic condition. Like Mersault in Camus' `The Stranger,' Dormer becomes strangely disoriented by the oppressive effect of the sun, though, in this case, it is the lack of a night that drives Dormer crazy through insomnia. As the virtually indistinguishable days and nights pass without sleep, Dormer begins to suffer from delirium and hallucinations, making it all the harder for him to separate truth from fiction, fantasy from reality and - most importantly - right from wrong and morality from immortality. When the killer reveals to Dormer that he saw him shoot his partner, Dormer finds himself faced with the ethical crisis of turning the culprit in or of bonding with him as `partners' in mutual criminality and guilt. Here again the once-clear and distinct line between investigator and criminal suddenly ceases to exist.

Pacino, stoop-shouldered and craggy-faced - the prominent bags under his eyes a physical testimony to his weariness and sleeplessness - plumbs the very depths of this infinitely rich and complex character. In fact, there is nothing less than an outstanding performance in the entire film. Robin Williams brings an air of restraint and understatement to the part of Walter Finch, the killer who plays a cat-and-mouse mind game with the sleepless, intellectually vulnerable Dormer, exploiting Dormer's weakened state to his own advantage. Hilary Swank brings a warmth and compassion to her role as Ellie Burr, an eager-to-please detective who has long idolized Dormer and his work, who also has to make an emotionally wrenching choice near the end of the film. Finally, Maura Tierney makes her few scenes count as a sympathetic innkeeper whom Dormer turns to as the person who happens to be handy at the moment when the need to unburden his soul spontaneously arises within him.

As the film's director, Christopher Nolan establishes and maintains a mood of quiet intensity throughout the course of the film. Helped by the stark, but somewhat oppressively gloomy beauty of the Alaskan outpost setting, Nolan makes us experience the same sense of unease and disorientation Dormer himself feels. Nolan has chosen to punctuate his film with a series of highly charged, intensely dramatic confrontation scenes between Dorman and any number of the other characters in the film. The film never wanes in interest for even a moment of its running time.

It is an enormous pleasure to see a film as intelligently conceived and executed as `Insomnia.' Kudos to everyone involved with making this such a rare and fascinating movie going experience. But the greatest thanks goes to Al Pacino himself. He has never been so good.
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Great, compelling piece of work!
mattymatt4ever5 June 2002
I was really looking forward to this film, and I'm glad to say that I wasn't the least bit disappointed. First of all, I was glad to see Al Pacino on screen again. It seems like it's been a while since I've seen him on screen. I think the last film he was in was "Any Given Sunday." Pacino yet again delivers a brilliant performance, strapping the audience in for a wild ride through the emotionally scarred mind of Detective Will Dormer. It seemed like I could feel his every emotion throughout the course of the movie. Because this is a character-driven story that revolves around Dormer, his pain, anguish and guilt on account of accidentally taking his partner's life, constant insomnia and subsequent threats by his nemesis, played by Robin Williams as a writer of trashy detective novels who's fascinated by Dormer and blackmails him by threatening to spill out the secret of Dormer shooting his partner. As for Robin Williams, he is fully convincing as the reclusive novelist/murderer of a 17-year-old girl. I suspected, from the trailers, that he'd play a serial killer. I wouldn't exactly classify his character as a serial killer, but he is the antagonist and a murderer and Williams plays the role perfectly, never underplaying it and never overplaying it. He could've went over-the-top, playing a totally ruthless killer who cackles at the thought of murdering someone in cold blood. Though he's not our sympathetic character, you do feel sympathy for him at times. And I like how the story creates this little cat-and-mouse game between the two characters, each one plagued by skeletons in the closet. Oscar-winner Hilary Swank delivers another fine performance, and I was stunned to see how amazingly attractive she looks, after having seen her gender-bending role as Brandon Teena in "Boys Don't Cry."

Christopher Nolan is the acclaimed director of "Memento" and he scores yet again, with this beautifully constructed thriller. I was intrigued from start to finish. Nolan's use of lighting is dark and murky, wonderfully setting the noirish tone. Nolan shows great promise as an up-and-coming director, and with a good outlet he can possibly become the next Kubrick. I greatly look forward to seeing his next project, whenever that may be.

I recommend "Insomnia" to anyone who loved Nolan's previous "Memento" or anyone who simply enjoys a great, multi-faceted mystery/thriller that will keep you guessing at every turn. I think it's too early to vote this movie as one of the best films of 2002, but it's a possible candidate. We don't see too many "great" films anymore, and whenever they're out there it's good to take advantage.

My score: 9 (out of 10)
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Mesmerising performance from Pacino
CharltonBoy5 March 2003
I used to think that nobody could come close to Robert De Niro when it comes to who was the best actor in Hollywood but as the years went by he started to pick some real Turkeys and a in the mean while an old hand was gradually taking the crown from De Niro and that is Al Pacino. In Insomnia he has picked another cracker of a film that although not fast paced is brilliantly acted and is very watchable. Hilary Swank is superb as is Robin Williams and its refreshing to see him taking a serious role instead of sentimental trash like Patch Adams but as per usual it is Al Pacino who steals the show. He plays an insomniac Cop who gets intangled in a murder case and gets into trouble after accidently killing his partner . I cant think of an actor who looks more tired than Pacino anyway so he was perfect for the role. The story is OK but to be honest the film is more about the performances than the plot. 8 out of 10
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(Obvious comment -->) This movie kept me wide awake
Aidan McGuinness5 November 2002
After `Memento', I - and a lot of others - eagerly awaited to see what Nolan would do next. Could he repeat the success? No. Could he still do a decent movie, a cut above the rest? Yes.

It's all about a killer. A top detective, Dormer (Al Pacino), along with his partner Eckhart (Martin Donavan), is called in to assist in a murder in remote Alaska. They're assisted by the local police officer Ellie Burr (Hilary Swank), who is a big fan of Dormer. Well and good. The two detectives have a secret shared between them, which allows for some creative, character building friction. You want a twist? Got it - there's a few. Firstly, there's the whole `insomnia' element - Alaska is in a 24-hour sun period, which Dormer cannot adjust to. Therefore he's constantly awake, and as the hunt continues, getting more and more tired - and more and more likely to mistake. Speaking of mistakes - he makes a big one (which I can't reveal) but which has dramatic consequences (not to mention character introspecting and building). This allows the movie to take a path, which is somewhat unexpected (for a bit), especially when we see how far Dormer is willing to go. It's all let down a bit by a final fifteen minutes which is, if nothing else, too dully Hollywood predictable. Oh well.

So the script's good but not excellent. Certainly not a patch on `Memento' as it has none of its mystery or suspense. It's essentially a cop/bad-guy story with the insomnia twist, and doesn't feature any spectacularly memorable moments. So why is it above average? The performances help for one. Al Pacino is the perfect person to play an insomniac - his drooping eyes are suited to Dormer. Yes he does his usual, appearing to sleep through his roles, but it suits the Dormer character and so he's well chosen. Swank is a bit disappointing - it's not a fault of her acting abilities, but more of a character that seems decidedly under-developed. All we know is that she's a fan of Dormer, but out to prove herself and make a mark. Not original. Robin Williams is of course the most talked about actor here, casting himself against type as a villain. He's remarkably restrained. I normally loathe his `comedy' roles, and kept expecting him to burst into goofy gestures and rambling nonsense, but he keeps himself in, gives himself a quiet dignity, undercut with a credible sense of menace. It'll make his role in `One Hour Photo' interesting to see. His character is also reasonably interesting, let down again by the weak finale.

So how does Nolan, master editor, work out here? He's good. There is a nice repeated image that, like elements of `Memento', only makes full sense later on. There're some great cuts and moments indicating Pacino's extreme fatigue - still camera work, sound being drowned out, and so forth. Certainly Nolan knows how to do his visuals and work with the beautiful Alaskan (and British Columbian) landscape to create stark images (which are, of course, also metaphorical). His use of lighting - a necessity in this movie - is good, and a nice contrast with light being used where dark would normally be the enemy. It's his work, along with the actors, that lifts up the movie into the `well worth watching' category.

I was, in the end, a little bit disappointed with `Insomnia'. It's not half as clever as `Memento', presumably having to pander more towards typical Hollywood sensibilities (it appears that it deviates from the original to make it more audience friendly). The lack of a stronger script is offset by some fine acting and assured direction. I look forward to seeing what Nolan does next, just not with quite the same eagerness as I did before this. 8/10.
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An intense character study set against a psychological 'cat and mouse' game... that
giancarlorocks24 May 2002
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: ***
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Good Acting Elevates This 'Sleeper'
ccthemovieman-19 October 2006
Warning: Spoilers
Al Pacino's acting once again is a highlight of a film he's in. He has the capacity to dominate a film with his presence. In this re-make of the Norwegian film, Pacino is excellent as a good-yet-tainted policeman who starts to unravel after not sleeping for four or five days. The Alaskan summer, with light 24 hours of day, can do that to visitors

Robin Williams, meanwhile, plays a killer. It's funny how comedians can do so well playing dramatic roles and Williams is a prime example. He's especially good at creepy nut-cases (See "One Hour Photo") Williams doesn't enter the movie until about halfway through and he's fascinating in a low-key role (until the end).

For a modern-day crime film, this doesn't have a lot of action but that's fine if the acting is this good and the story involving. Here, the acting is better than the story. Kudos to Hillary Swank, too, for her performance as the cop.

The Alaskan scenery ain't bad, either.
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Christopher Nolan does it again!
lumkinsc9824 May 2002
First off, Christopher Nolan is one of my biggest influences when it comes to film and screen writing. With films such as Following and Memento, both of which reached cult following levels, he is well on his way to a successful Hollywood career. Then, today came, his 3rd film was released, Insomnia. Based on a 1997 Norwegian film written by Nikolaj Frobenius and Erik Skjoldbjærg, Insomnia is a true work of art in the world of film.

Christopher Nolan takes all that was the 1997 film, and brings it to the next level, using his own style of directing, a musical score with shades of Memento, and an all star cast. Al Pacino and Robin Williams pulls out the greatest performances of their careers in the past decade, if not in their ENTIRE careers in my eyes.

Pacino once again excels in the role of master dective, while Williams takes this chance to show his "dark side", and he does it so well. I can only hope that this is a rebirth of Robin Williams, and as it stands with his upcoming film One Hour Photo (which he once again plays a dark, psychotic role), it seems to be just that! Hilary Swank also pulls out what is the greatest role of her career.

Insomnia brings you in as an audience, with it's perfectly woven plot, with a film noir feel to it, just as Nolan's first two films. It is a rollercoster ride of drama and suspense as you watch Al Pacino from the very beginning unravel, and the rest of the story and his past catches up with him. I can not say much more about it, as I do not wish to spoil anything about if for you, but I do want to say this... ...go see it, right now, and enjoy. If you love crime/mystery/drama films with that wonderful Film Noir feel to it, you will love this film. If that isn't your thing, then the performances of the three main actors are worth the price of a ticket in itself.

Finally I just want to say, that Insomnia proves once and for all that Christopher Nolan will indeed be a force to reckoned with in Hollywood. I've said it before, and I'll say it again... ...Christopher Nolan is well on his way to becoming the Hollywood legend which he proves he is capable of becoming.
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A great psychological thriller, a must-see for Pacino fans
shortround839115 April 2009
Warning: Spoilers
Since the release of "Memento" (which I honestly haven't seen yet) Christopher Nolan has become a rising star in the world of film directing. And he finally shined with both "Batman Begins" and "The Dark Knight" which revitalized the Batman character and established it as the most popular and even putting him above Spider-man. The fact is, Nolan is among the greatest film-makers in the world and he is going to keep making new classics for the years to come, and I'm already looking forward to "Inception" in 2010. In 2002, he directed a remake of the Norweigian film of the same name called "Insomnia", and I gotta say, it's the best psychological thriller I've ever seen and it even surpasses "The Silence of the Lambs" big time.

The premise-A highly known and highly accomplished Los Angeles detective named Will Dormer (Al Pacino) is sent to a town in Alaska to solve a murder case involving a 17 year old girl. But his partner Hap, just revealed to him that he's planning on testifying against him because he knows about Dormer planting evidence to gain a conviction on a previous case. And all that guilt, fear and the midnight sun that is constantly shining sends Dormer a whole week of no sleep (insomnia). And Dormer starts to lose his concentration and his reasoning.

Al Pacino has been known for dominating every movie he's in and stealing the show from the other actors and he totally does that in here. And it also seems that he was perfectly cast in here because he has the look of a guy who hasn't slept in days. And that might be due to his facial appearance with the dark circles under his eyes and his wrinkled face and he even looks tired the moment he gets off the plane at the beginning. And the more days that pass, he looks more and more fatigued. And I wonder if Pacino really kept himself awake during filming or if he's really that good as a method actor. Although fatigue is the main emotion that he demonstrates here, his feeling of guilt is masterfully shown after he accidentally kills his partner in the thick fog while they're chasing the killer. And we, as the audience wonder if it was really a mistake, or if he shot him on purpose to shut his partner up and prevent his testimony. And Dormer even does some extreme measures to cover up what really happened. At the end, the question is never answered and we're left wondering about his morality and how ethical of a cop he really is. And also the scene when he confronts the victim's boyfriend (whose a smart-mouth, always doing his "f**k the world act") and he really shuts him up. I personally thought that was pretty darn cool and he really fits into the mind of Will Dormer and gives one of his finest performances ever.

Robin Williams, who plays as the girl's killer, is known for doing comedy roles and he should start listening to everyone's advice and stick to doing dramatic or serious roles, because he is WAY better when he's doing the kind of acting he does in "Insomnia". He actually doesn't start showing his face until about half-way through the movie and spends the first half either hiding his face or giving sinister, yet strangely non-threatening phone calls to Dormer. And it turns out that he saw Dormer shoot his partner and spends the rest of the movie blackmailing him and forces him to pin the murder of the girl on someone else.

Hilary Swank gives perhaps the 2nd best acting performance and once again, Nolan casted her perfectly as the detective who idolizes Dormer. I guess it has to do something with the way Swank's mannerisms are like. And she's totally believable as the character who looks up to Dormer and she seems like she wants to impress him all the time. And she cuts Dormer some slack even though he gives a vague explanation for an incident involving an officers death.

Having a trio of former Oscar winners really helped the film here, and also was the masterful direction of Nolan, he makes the scenery of Alaska somewhat peaceful, yet disturbing. And as all psychological thrillers go...u have to keep the suspense and tension going though the whole move....otherwise, what's the point? At first, you can feel the tension between Dormer and his partner, and then between Dormer and the killer.

This is simply the best psycho-thriller I've ever seen, and if you think that "The Silence of the Lambs" was something, wait 'till you see this!
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Not As Good as Original, But Still A Good, Dark Tale
noralee30 November 2005
I erred in giving into temptation to watch the original Norwegian "Insomnia" on IFC just a couple of weeks before seeing this Hollywood re-make directed by indie-credible "Memento" Christopher Nolan with a very effective Academy Award-winning cast.

The original movie had a tiny budget and also an excellent cast, led by the terrific Swede Stellan Skarsgård, growing as pale as that relentless sunshine during the course of the film; the usually haggard-looking Al Pacino interprets his insomnia visually through an ever more haggard face.

Though the original film isn't given as the source material until well into the closing credits, this follows the main thrust of the story closely. The changes, though, are both subtle and significant and intriguingly as American as Sam Spade when the mise en scene gets moved to Alaska (actually shot in Vancouver). Significantly, there is less sex and more morality.

Hilary Swank's character is more naive than her counterpart; Martin Donovan's character's role is more central to the story and, of course, Robin Williams gets more screen time than his original counterpart, as the conflict is less in the lead's mind and more on the screen as a duel. The plot twists are done differently so I shamefully got confused between the two movies.

While not as overwhelming as the original, I do think this version should rank right up with the great detective/cop-does-the-right-thing movies, and the plot makes more sense than "The Big Sleep."

(originally written 6/16/2002)
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This film will give you Insomnia!
brandon_lee42030 April 2010
Who doesn't love Al Pacino? Anyone.....Come on..... there at least should be one hater! Guess there is not. Al Pacino is loved by everyone who has seen him as "Michael Vito Corleone" in The Godfather Trilogy or the ruthless "Tony Montana" in Scarface. These films were the highlights of his career and even though he isn't as memorable as Will Dormer in Insomnia, it is hard not to give him an honorable mention. Insomnia is referred to as a "Cat and Mouse" thriller and it proved that it is one because of the whole chase thing between Will Dormer, a cop, and a local writer who goes by the name of Walter Finch, a man who is under the suspicion of killing a teen. This is proved even more when there is an actual ground chase between them two on the logs in the flowing river. That scene was full of heart pounding action and added a bit of intrigue that made you appreciate the film a little bit more. The film would have been unknown to me if there weren't the three Oscar winners, Al Pacino, Robin Williams, and Hilary Swank that made this thriller for what it is, also if Christopher Nolan hadn't directed it. He is truly a great director. Steven Spielberg has to watch out for the might of Nolan. Al Pacino was absolute and admirable in Insomnia therefore making him the best actor in the whole film. His role as a tough cop was fascinating and hypnotizing. Robin Williams, who portrays Walter Finch, was not as great as Al's however he still doesn't disappoint. This is not Robin Williams best role but it MIGHT be his most evilest role in his "Evil Trilogy". Hilary Swank's character Ellie Burr made you think that she was unnecessary but as the film reaches its climax you realize that she plays an important part. Swank's performance could not rival against her other roles in "Million Dollar Baby" or "Boy's don't Cry" however she is agreeable but not fun to watch. The films chilly, or spooky, atmosphere is the best in any movie, I have ever seen so far. It just makes the films setting really home-sweet-home. The scenery at the beginning was beautiful as the plane flew over the ice and glaciers of Alaska.

In Nightmute, Alaska, seventeen year old resident Kay Connell is found murdered. As a favor to the local Nightmute police chief, two Los Angeles Robbery Homicide police detectives, Will Dormer and Hap Eckhart, are called in to assist in the investigation. Although renowned in the police world, both Dormer and Eckhart are facing some professional issues back in Los Angeles. In Nightmute, Dormer has a major case of insomnia due to a combination of the incessant midnight sun and from a secret he is carrying. This insomnia is causing him to be delusional. Something he is not dreaming about is that the murderer has contacted him, informing him all about the murder and the fact that he knows everything that is going on with Dormer. They begin a symbiotic relationship in keeping secrets for each individual's benefit. But ambitious young local detective, Ellie Burr, might piece the story together on her own.
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A bone-chilling masterpiece
tml_pohlak_1318 May 2009
Al Pacino is an L.A. cop who's come to Alaska with his partner to investigate a brutal homicide. Hilary Swank is the Alaskan detective who admires his work and methods. Robin Williams is the killer they're hunting down. (All three are Oscar winners by the way, and deliver performances that are definitely worthy of an Oscar.) Throughout the film, Pacino's character's mind wreaks havoc; the Alaskan town is so far up north, they get "white nights" (I.e. the sun doesn't set for half the year). As a result, he cannot sleep.

With "Insomnia", Christopher Nolan joins my list of directors I admire. "Insomnia" owes much of its stunning success to the directorial choices Nolan makes. The most difficult task of the movie is this: how exactly can you show the audience Pacino's increasingly disoriented, sleepless mind-frame, without boring them? I think Nolan handles this expertly.

The cast deliver stellar performances, in particular Robin Williams. His character is undoubtedly psychotic. What a temptation for Williams to steal the show with a display of angry shouting, of pure psychopathic hostility, of maniacal laughter! But no. He avoids this and goes for a far different touch. His character talks of extremely disturbing things in a very calm, matter-of-fact way, making his performance far more bone-chilling. As much as I love Williams' comic roles, I have to admit he's practically unrivalled in "serious" acting.

Another thought: although this is a film I like to consider a thriller, it is very much like a film noir as well. Personally, I love the plots of film noirs, but I can't stand the relentless usage of shadows and dark lighting. "Insomnia" shatters these guidelines. It is a very dark film with lots and lots of light. The effect is interesting to say the least.

This film is a thriller, and consequently, I'm choosing my words carefully in order to spoil as little of the film as possible. I highly recommend seeing this film— I was blown away. "Insomnia" is also very deep, powerfully invoking themes of guilt and restlessness. I do not regret buying this film: I confidently call it a great movie.

Note: Apparently, "Insomnia" is a remake of a 1997 Norwegian film starring Stellan Skarsgård. I haven't seen it, but if it was anything close to as good as this film, whoever does see it is in for a real treat!
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Solid thriller with strong acting
bob the moo4 April 2003
Warning: Spoilers
Glad to be getting away from the Internal Affairs investigation in their department in LA, Will Dormer and his partner Hap Eckhart fly up to assist on a murder case in Alaska. Will quickly makes the progress that his reputation led young officer Ellie Burr to expect. However when a suspect is chased through fog, Will accidentally shoots Hap. He covers it up and blames the suspect, conscious that IAD will assume that he killed Hap to prevent him cutting a deal with them. However later he gets a call from the killer who saw the whole thing and is holding it over Will in return for him framing someone else. With fewer options and Ellie investigating the shooting, Will finds himself unable to sleep in the 24 hour sunshine and getting increasingly strung out.

Better known as part 2 of Robin Williams proving he can do more than just sentimental crap, I was looking forward to seeing it. I haven't seen the original film so I can't contrast the two and say which is better - I could only judge this on its own merits. I found the film to be a very enjoyable thriller that was very atmospheric. The story itself is quite intriguing and is at its best when Will and Walter are playing cat and mouse games with each other. The main investigation and the investigation into Hap's shooting all add to the intensity.

Although it is quite slow at times it is actually well paced - some fast paced exciting moments but mostly dialogue driven scenes that are just as exciting. The direction is excellent and the whole film has a bright crisp feel to it. The final shot of the film is powerful yet still, with the protagonists frozen against a background of lake and mountains.

The film's main driver is the strength of the performances. Williams is excellent, I was never sure what to make of his character because Williams kept him complex enough to hold the interest. Pacino is also great. He actually looks dog tired progressively through the film. Like Williams, his character has enough meat on it to be of interest and when either of them was on the screen, my interest was guaranteed . Swank had a difficult task to play opposite Pacino in the majority of her scenes but she really holds her own. Donovan is good but brief, but to be honest it is Pacino and Williams' film the whole way.

Overall this is a classy little thriller that has more than enough going on to keep it interesting. The plot is well written so that it avoids a simplistic good/evil approach and the performances bring the well-drawn characters to life.
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Waking Life
tedg25 June 2002
Warning: Spoilers
Spoilers herein.

The element that makes cinema unique is the ability to fold: to shuffle time and narrative both by the mind and eye.

Nolan showed great promise with `The Following,' built around a very ambitious narrative structure. It moved the notion of narration way in front of the camera and even beyond, in front of a character's eye but behind his mind. Other experiments have tried this from the failed `Watcher,' to `Snake Eyes and `Body Double.' Nolan failed because his story had too many noir complications -- plus it is difficult to simultaneously twist both the story and the narration of the story.

He solved that in `Memento.' A very successful project which amazed more with its competent handling of the problem than in the value of the experience of actually watching it. It promised much of a future from someone who understand what film was all about. But as with Soderbergh, that promise is dashed. I am sure that Nolan believes his new sponsor, Soderbergh, that you can alternate commercial projects with the more personal work (like his `Limey'). We'll have to see in both cases.

But as to this project, it fails. The notion of the original was clever: history can be changed by shifting evidence, and that shift can make the merely true truly true. (`Lone Star.') The backbone is the story of cop who planted evidence to catch the real crooks and is mirrored by a mystery writer who worked the other way. His quest involved making his murder fiction more powerful by inserting a real murder in it, then mirroring the reporting on the page with the reporting to a cop. The idea went further into Nolan/Soderbergh territory by having the `narrator' experience sleep deprivation which produces hallucinations and memory transformation of the sort that influences perception and especially memory. This is the stuff that involves the viewer in confusion about what is true, or so it was intended.

But no one seems to have told Pacino, as if he would have listened anyway. Any opportunity to introduce ambiguity is completely wasted by him. He hallucinates from Robin's eyes but makes no note of it. He has a recurring Lady Macbeth moment of the indelible blood, but we get no feel for the shifting of memory as a stain. At the end, no one in the theater got the intended ambiguity of whether he knowingly shot his partner or not. The intended point was that he didn't know now, but my whole audience believe it was settled as a revelation.

Swank, who knows something about acting about acting, plays a mere Sandra Bullock role here. What a waste. Robin Williams gives -- surprisingly -- the best performance of the project, which should be a real warning. Little is made of the fact that he is a writer of detective stories. That the letters (do they exist?) from the murdered girl were good poetry, elicited by him in her mind just as he (in the original film) enters Pacino's mind.

Is Pacino's character a live worth living? We are supposed to wonder? Will Nolan have a film life worth living? We wonder.
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Rage Against the Dying of the Light
wes-connors28 December 2009
"Invited to 'Nightmute', Alaska, to head a murder case, veteran LAPD detective Will Dormer (Al Pacino) finds his investigation interrupted by an ever-shining midnight sun that wreaks sleep-depriving havoc on him - and by personal guilt over a second crime that may be real… or a figment of his increasingly unstable consciousness," according to the DVD sleeve description.

Director Christopher Nolan does an excellent job crafting a North American version of the original 1997 Norwegian crime drama, helped immensely by Hillary Seitz' intricate, intelligent adaptation.

Also extraordinary are Mr. Pacino, cinematographer Wally Pfister, and editor Dody Dorn. Hilary Swank and Robin Williams effectively tone down their established personas. The smaller roles are beautifully realized - Paul Dooley, Larry Holden, Katharine Isabelle, Jonathan Jackson, Nicky Katt, and Maura Tierney deserve an "ensemble cast" award - and, Martin Donovan's "Hap" is particularly haunting.

This film could have easily been nominated for six "Academy Awards" - but, probably, voters were sleepless in Chicago. Nevertheless, "Insomnia" shows Mr. Nolan, coming off "Memento" (2000), moving into the circle of upper echelon directors. Mr. Pfister knows how to hand-hold cameras, and Ms. Dorn's editing skills are sharp - hopefully, this team will receive some more film projects.

********* Insomnia (5/3/02) Christopher Nolan ~ Al Pacino, Robin Williams, Hilary Swank, Martin Donovan
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Clear Cut
AbhiMathews23 November 2014
Insomnia is almost a collage of several other mystery films (namely Se7en) tied into one, but not distinctively. Although it wasn't completely repetitive, it was as cliché as detective work goes, and the movie didn't stand out one way or another. Whether it's the elusive murderer on the loose or the mentally plagued cop who's trying his best, this movie is predictable and lacks ingenuity.

Accompanying the lack of creativity, the prime actors and actresses had average performances and the emotional conviction in the roles was often lacking. A straight plot followed by routine dialogue made Insomnia rather mundane and an effort to watch. Although there were particular exciting scenes, they were rather short and sparse. The resources were there, but execution was a miss.

Whether it's L.A. Confidential, The Usual Suspects, Se7en or any other great mystery movie, these all had a strong emotional attachment that hook viewers into truly empathizing with the protagonists and mystery at hand. Unfortunately in Insomnia, it's almost like you already know the fate of the characters, and still don't care.
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Dead dog of a movie?
mdouglasfresno18 August 2007
Warning: Spoilers
Well, maybe not quite a dead dog (as in this movie's most talked-about scene), but could've been better. Actually I found this version to an okay time-filler; but nothing more. The Norwegian original this was based on would have to be considered far superior. We've probably seen Al Pacino in the detective role too many times, and Robin Williams, while good, enters the plot much too late.

Now onto the "meat" of the plot (if you'll pardon the expression): the dead dog scene. In the Norwegian original, the detective shoots a LIVE dog to fake the ballistic evidence; this is both an emotionally jarring scene and serves to further alienate the detective from the sympathy of the audience. In this version, Christopher Nolan chooses to plan it safe and have Al Pacino (conveniently) come upon a dead dog, and later return to the corpse to shoot it, then dig the slug out of it's carcass. While not packing the same wallop, this scene IS well done by Nolan and very grisly in it's own right -- we not only see the dog's death-snarl and sightless eye, but we cannot fail to recognize the gruesome fact that digging around in a rotting dog corpse has got to be pretty darn gross! I recall that in the theater, this scene provoked the most gasps from shocked theater-goers. Nolan probably figured showing the shooting of a live dog would alienate American movie patrons from his motion picture....guess Norwegian audiences are made of heartier stock!
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Best cop movie I've seen in the last 12 years
arthurclay6 October 2006
When you have three Academy Award Winners in one picture, it's destined to be terrific or downright terrible. This movie is terrific. The funny thing is I didn't realize how good it was until about four years later. Time has a way of blurring your memory and mine is more blurred than most. You can't forget this one however because it sticks in your head and won't come out. The cinematography is superb and the lines are, in several places, quite unique and memorable. I will always remember at the end, feeling Dormer's (Pacino) insomnia. Literally feeling it. And obviously, I've been there. I once went eight whole days without a night's sleep. Don't ask me how, but I did. And after that much sleeplessness, it begins to mess with you. I have only seen about ten minutes of the original film on which this film is based, not because I got bored and turned it off, but because I didn't realize what I was watching. If I had, I most certainly would have watched the whole thing. Robin Williams was an illogical but certainly credible, deserved, and welcome addition to this film, and anyone who says he plays something other than what he actually plays didn't pay close attention. He is always good for an unexpected performance. Do yourself a favor, study this film. Really study it. A true work of art if there ever was one on film.
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Dumbed down remake of fine Norwegian original
txbangert22 July 2007
Warning: Spoilers
Movie Reviews =============

Insomnia -------- Everything about this remake reeks of an attempt to censor the original Norwegian film. While no masterpiece, the central attraction of the original film is the morally ambiguous central figure. Outwardly a sophisticated metropolitan hero detective who always get his man and who presents an image of virtue and integrity, the real person is very different. Initially we buy into the image of hero, but the more we see how he operates in private the more we begin to doubt his moral integrity. Everything he does after we are initially introduced to him seems to cast further doubt on his character, and it seems that he is sinking into a quagmire partly of his own making. In the end a fortuitous events resolve matters, the crime is solved and the hero leaves town basking in the glory of another success. All the messy details are packed up and swept away.

And so it is of great surprise that the Hollywood remake, like some nasty corporate censor, erases every single act which shows the protagonists moral slide downwards. First of all our expectations are dampened in the remake by making the protagonist not a hero cop, but a cop who is being investigated by internal affairs and sent into 'exile' for various misdeeds in the past. He seems a decent guy, but then his own partner says he is going to inform on him. He admits to out and out framing a criminal in at least one case. This it seems weighs heavily on his mind. This makes him a rather tarnished police officer. We are also not really given any indication of past heroism or why other police officers would look up to him. The original introduces the protagonist as an effective investigator as he takes charge, finds new clues, makes television broadcasts and so on. This is missing in the remake. He remarks as an aside that the murderer has washed the victims's hair, but it doesn't sink in. The introduction ends when the partner is shot and killed and we begin the moral descent.

First we meet a rebellious stroppy teen who wants something 'exciting'. The protagonist gives her an extended and unpleasant grope before showing her the place where the body of her friend was found. In the remake this is deleted and the protagonist plays a game of chicken with an oncoming truck instead, which is stupid, out of character as well as pointless.

Next we meet a dog that is destined to receive the substitute bullet. Our protagonist has killed his partner (by accident) and the bullet will eventually identify him. During a gun battle with the villain, our protagonist by chance finds the villains gun, something he keeps to himself. Having the villain's gun in his possession he shoots something with it, digs out the bullet and replaces it with the one the coroner found. The dog acts as substitute for a human gunshot victim. In the original the shooting of the dog is quite a gruesome episode. In the remake, the dog is already dead! It is a rotting corpse.

As he descends further into the moral quagmire (symbolized by his battle with the sun and inability to sleep) he just about rapes the hotel receptionist. In the remake she has sex with him (which we are left to assume was pleasant and consensual) to stop him from disturbing his neighbours.

And then the protagonist is dead! Villain and protagonist kill each other. The end! The original has a 'hollywood' ending where the villain is dead/caught and everything is back to normal. But the remake removes the Hollywood ending and kills off the protagonist. The horror, the horror!

The remake does have a few redeeming features. The scenery from Alaska is nice and the small town is well presented. The dash over the log filled pond is quite nice. Al Pacino as the protagonist is very good, as is Robin Williams as the villain. Al Pacino though is let to overact, when the protagonist should generally be more understated. The actress who plays the female rookie is also quite good.

The action scenes also do not work in the remake, with the exception of the log chase scene. In the original the protagonist is almost killed in the chase scene. That is deleted. The cable car scene where the protagonist catches up with the villain is brilliant. No action is possible during the cable car and instead they have a 'quiet' chat. One would think that with a Hollywood budget and a Hollywood production they could have at least improved upon the original's rather limited and drab action scenes.
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the air
Kirpianuscus4 February 2018
...who remains, for long time after its end, like a smoke circle. the tension, pressure and need to escape from yourself. and the hunting , so different by other crime films. the admirable cast. and the genius of Nolan to propose a psychological war , using impressive actors for each role. a film remaining, for long time, in memory.
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Although it moves a bit slow at times, still a good suspense drama
KineticSeoul22 January 2011
Although I don't think this is one of Christopher Nolan's strongest films, but it was still pretty good and had a good story which is what his films are mostly known for. One of the quotes from the movie is "a good cop can't sleep because a piece of the puzzle is missing and a bad cop can't sleep cause his conscience won't let him". And that is what the story is about while getting blackmailed by the killer who tries to convince the detective that they are both in the same situation. And if the end sometimes justify the means. Unfortunately the killer isn't the least bit interesting although the film starts off by making the killer seem like a interesting character. Although the film moves a bit slow at times, has a well woven plot that will keep most audiences intrigued from beginning to end with it's drama and suspense. The main reason I saw this is because it's a Christopher Nolan film and it didn't really disappoint.

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One of the better film's out there, but not up to Nolan's incredibly high standards
fatehsmann16 August 2010
I'm one of Christopher Nolan's biggest fans. I think he was best filmmaker in the past decade, and if he continues making highly innovative,different,engrossing and intense films like memento,Batman Begins,TDK and now Inception, he's going to have a claim to be one of the greatest directors of all time. He's certainly on his way there. This film is by no means lacking in creativity, but when you look at Nolan's other works, this is no doubt the odd one out, there is genre subversion with the classic dark noir scenes replaced by omnipresent sunlight. The plot is good,but not great. What really draws you in is Al Pacino showing his greatness as an actor with a brilliant rendition of William Dommer,the title character .A cat-and-mouse game between hero-cop-with- skeletons-in-his-closet-suffering-from-insomnia-and-guilt and criminal- with-ace-up-his-sleeve is intriguing and engaging. But so,Robin William's appearance somehow hurts the movie, who,despite his talent,gives an unusually lackluster performance. The movie then loses its pace and intensity,and I found my attention wandering,something I thought impossible during a Nolan Movie. The 24-day concept is new and refreshing,Hillary Swank also gives a solid performance. The first 1 hour was very promising.

Yet, somewhere in between, the movie loses its intensity, and already lacking Nolan's characteristic incredibly out-of-the-box-theme, it also loses its chance at greatness. Despite that,it's not a bad movie by any stretch. It's definitely worth a watch. Catch it for another stellar performance from one of Hollywood's stalwarts and Nolan's clever cinematography.
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Not a bad thriller but could've been better
sme_no_densetsu29 November 2008
"Insomnia" is a thriller that has some big names attached to it: Al Pacino, Robin Williams & Hilary Swank; all designated as 'Academy Award Winner' on the movie poster. Director Christopher Nolan is also well-known, though his only Oscar nomination is for a co-screen writing credit.

The story concerns a veteran cop (Al Pacino) sent to Alaska along with his partner in order to aid in a murder investigation. Through a series of events cop & killer (Robin Williams) eventually come face to face, though under circumstances that pit them against each other in a battle of wits.

The cast, as previously noted, is stocked with Oscar-caliber talent. However, it seems to me that those casting the film went for big name actors over others who may have been better suited to the parts. I have no complaints about Al Pacino as he's played this sort of character enough times to be able to do it in his sleep. On the other hand, Robin Williams just didn't convince me as a murderer in the usual Hollywood 'criminal mastermind' mold. Hilary Swank was decent enough but her role demanded none of the skill that won her two well-deserved Oscars. The movie makers should have skipped Swank's price tag and spent the money on better support because most of it is merely television-caliber.

The script is a pretty good one if you like thrillers of this sort, although it's been done to death by now. Nolan's direction throws in some admittedly breathtaking outdoor scenery while the more intimate scenes are no better than average. The score by David Julyan is decent enough but I can't really recall anything particularly interesting or memorable about it.

On the whole, the film is a perfectly acceptable thriller though it falls into the trap of placing more emphasis on stars than story. However, I expect that fans of the genre will not find it difficult to overlook the supposed faults that I've outlined.
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