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Overall Rating

Awesome: 37.5%
Worth A Look44.17%
Average: 11.67%
Pretty Bad: 4.17%
Total Crap: 2.5%

6 reviews, 84 user ratings

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Insomnia (2002)
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by Stephen Groenewegen

"Day for night"
4 stars

Insomnia is a handsome remake of a 1997 Norwegian film of the same name (directed by Erik Skjoldbjśrg). Screenwriter Hillary Seitz has relocated the action to Alaska, and the fictional fishing hamlet of Nightmute. Northern Alaska is the closest America comes to the ďland of the midnight sunĒ, and the action takes place during the endless daylight of summer.

Al Pacino stars as LA Detective Will Dormer, and brings with him echoes of previous, celebrated roles from the 1970s. Specifically, I was reminded of his crusading lawyer in ...And Justice for All and honest cop in Serpico. Dormerís become fixated on the outcome of each case, and heís beginning to justify whatever means are necessary to achieve the desired end of convicting molesters and murderers.

Dormer and his partner, Eckhart (Martin Donovan), have been sent to sleepy Nightmute to take over the investigation into the murder of a teenage girl. From the body, Dormer deduces itís the first crime of a future serial killer. Alert and supremely self-assured about his abilities, Dormer takes the youthful hero-worship of local cop Ellie Burr (Hilary Swank) in his stride. She studied his cases at the academy and is thrilled to be working alongside him.

But thereís another reason for Dormer and Eckhartís presence in Alaska. They are evading the heat of an Internal Affairs probe into corruption in their department. Dormer is furious that Eckhart has decided to talk to Internal Affairs on their return; to his thinking, itís bound to result in a re-opening of their cases and could jeopardise their policing reputation.

The relations between the two men are strained. When a ruse to lure the killer into the open backfires, Eckhart is shot. Now Dormer is free to escape Internal Affairs scrutiny. His reaction to Eckhartís death - as witnessed by Walter Finch (Robin Williams) - comes to haunt him every waking minute.

The tables turn on Dormer when Burr is assigned to investigate the shooting of Eckhart. This is a solid role for Swank, who brings drive and energy to the fresh-faced Burr and is convincing in a part younger than her age. You can tell from the way Swank plays her that Burr has had to be smarter and work harder than the men in the station to get where she is.

Itís easy to see why she initially looks up to Dormer. On his arrival, heís all business; rushing from one location to the next, he has to be reminded that he canít visit the school yet because itís 10 oíclock at night. As sleepless night follows sleepless night for Dormer, and the psychological pressure mounts, the vibrancy in Pacinoís face fades. He begins to look worn, with his hangdog expression and heavy-lidded eyes. Dormer is driven to the edge of sanity by exhaustion and the tormenting Finchís games.

Williams is playing against type as Finch. His cold and deliberate manner suggests a flinty interior. All the comedy in his face is suppressed; the glint in his piercing blue eyes when he stares down Pacino is malevolent.

Director Christopher Nolanís last film, the noirish Memento, got an added kick from its backwards storytelling gimmick. Nolan doesnít repeat himself here. Although Insomnia is also about the morality of crime and vengeance, it has more in common thematically with Training Day. Both films are about a cop willing to bend or even break the law to uphold it. Are suspect policing methods justified if they result in arrest?

Insomnia is more stimulating than Training Day because it keeps sight of its ideas for longer (Training Day abandoned them at the first chance for a gun fight). Nolan and Seitz examine the psychology of a budding serial killer through Dormerís relationship with Finch. They also explore the fine line between accidental death and murder.

Nolan filmed in Alaska and British Columbia with cinematographer Wally Pfister (who photographed Memento). The action set pieces occur in unusual and harshly beautiful surroundings - on a perilously rocky beach shrouded in fog, across an ocean of tree trunks on a dockside logging conveyer belt. Nolan constantly reminds us of Dormerís dislocation with startling images, like the corpse of a dog among alley trash. David Julyanís score adds to the tense and unsettling mood.

Minor aspects of the plot bugged me throughout. Why doesnít Dormer buy a sleep mask or move to another hotel room? Why would Ellie visit the isolated home of a murder suspect on her own? After following Dormerís actions for most of the film, I felt distanced during the climax, as if we were suddenly watching him from afar. Nolan is a coolly controlling director. He excels at setting the pieces of a complicated puzzle in place. But, like Memento, I felt only intellectual satisfaction when his game concluded.

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originally posted: 08/10/02 18:04:44
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User Comments

9/22/17 morris campbell good script good acting good film IMHO 4 stars
8/30/11 Monday Morning Good story but slow to unfold. Could have cut, like 30 minutes from it. 4 stars
12/07/10 Kyle Amazing film, Nolan's best film except Memento. Far better than The Dark Knight/Inception. 5 stars
10/19/09 sachin Al Pacino's Finest Performance Till Date(2009) 5 stars
11/26/08 Shaun Wallner Thought this was a good film. 5 stars
7/22/08 the dork knight Probably one of the last good movies you'll ever see from Pacino 5 stars
1/19/08 Pamela White great plot and realistic sleep deprivation subplot 5 stars
8/21/07 Bhavesh Good movie 4 stars
7/26/07 Quigley See it just for Al Pacino alone. Nolan's direction is top-notch. It still didn't grab me. 3 stars
4/21/07 Ronin Awesome acting. Script not so great. 4 stars
2/23/07 Weblynx thriller, great acting, i loved it 5 stars
2/08/07 Raph Branca This film came out of left field. Surprisingly great piece of work. 5 stars
7/13/06 free bonus sign up no fine print or wagering sport betting selection free bonus sign up no fine print or wagering 5 stars
4/12/06 anthonyuk superb acting, fantastic 5 stars
10/10/05 Agent Sands Robin Williams steals the whole fucking movie. 4 stars
8/22/05 R.W. Welch Engrossing cop flick tho ending is not quite convincing. Top drawer acting. 4 stars
5/28/05 Gary Surprisingly good-- Great performance by Pacino. Great directors commentary 5 stars
5/28/05 Indrid Cold A little disappointing, but still a meaty, entertaining thriller. 4 stars
9/26/04 NJ Cup Winner 95-00-03 Three Oscar winners make for one entertaining movie that stayed w/me 4 stars
5/28/04 Me Good acting, but it was kind of boring... 4 stars
5/21/04 tatum Good suspenser, film's misleading trailer nothing like the film 4 stars
4/27/04 4x4 Hilary awesome. Pacino OK. Willams spastic. Not bad. 4 stars
1/22/04 fhfj Taut storyline, acting, and direction, though somewhat predictable. 4 stars
12/10/03 Samuel A very good movie Pacino and Williams work well together!! 3 stars
11/14/03 Edith the Maid and Meredith the Mermaid Pacino's worst movie other'n DEVIL'S ADVOCATE, not counting awful cameo in GIGLI. 2 stars
9/14/03 KING EDWARD good stuff - makes me want to strangle a goat, while screaming 'god bless america' 4 stars
5/30/03 abhijeet bhadra It"s informative , should include pictures. 3 stars
5/14/03 Mr. Hat (I'm Back Mo'Fos!!!) Good acting, directing, and kind of a nice story. Not bad. 4 stars
3/10/03 Matt Thiel Nolan's mediocre followup to Memento. Sigh. 2 stars
1/29/03 fraz visually appealing, complex plot and characters, believable acting 4 stars
1/03/03 . Robin Williams was suprisingly good as the psycho! 4 stars
12/03/02 George Jung A shining light in the shit that was the movies of 2002. 5 stars
11/21/02 Phil M. Aficionado Well done except for a few contrivances; An A-/B+ kind of effort. See it. 4 stars
11/11/02 Henk Binnendijk A moody movie exploring the value of police ethics. 5 stars
11/10/02 Daniel Good cast wasted! This yarn is way too predictable. 3 stars
11/06/02 Punk_Ass No real twists or turns. Ending sucked. ok if you need to kill some time 3 stars
10/27/02 Elizaveta Pretty good...Robin Williams should've suffered more 4 stars
10/26/02 Monster W. Kung Awesome. One of the best crime/thrillers I've seen in a long time. 5 stars
10/22/02 Ken The main character died, so it must be good! Boring, boring, boring. 2 stars
10/18/02 Reini Urban not a masterpiece, too olished, but quite okay 4 stars
10/16/02 TwIsTeD Patch Adams Beats Ass 5 stars
9/29/02 Peter Sherlock Very average. Too many inconsistencies. 2 stars
9/25/02 James Renwick Ultimately doesn't work - Dialogue - Dialogue - Dialogue 4 stars
9/11/02 Francofile I'm so sick of Hollywood forcemeat. Is the (excellent) 1997 original too "foreign"!? 3 stars
9/07/02 trumplesneaker fab film in a fab location. it had holes but i can live with them. i like KMG's comment! 4 stars
9/06/02 Matthew Smith an outstanding thriller, taut and terrific edge of seat stuff from start to finish 5 stars
8/19/02 Mr. Hat (I'm Back!) Christopher Nolan is a really good director, and the cast is great. 4 stars
8/13/02 blakers great 5 stars
8/07/02 Tiffany Faye Hawthorne Fancies itself cool for being non-formulaic. But sometimes that's just not so hot! 2 stars
7/02/02 KMG It was boring. Pacino should've just covered the windows! 3 stars
6/30/02 Holland Weeks Effective acting; double plot tension; plausible character complexity 5 stars
6/28/02 Bada Bing Crosby All three stars deliver the goods & director is quantum..funny joke by Katt, too! 5 stars
6/22/02 cleansparks very good movie, pacino is excellent 5 stars
6/20/02 Issec Wang It was good but not amazing. I liked it a lot. Impressive. 4 stars
6/16/02 JO Beyond words...I didn't think anything Al Pacino was in could suck as much as this... 1 stars
6/15/02 Cher Pretty bad acting, decent plot doesn't make up for it 1 stars
6/12/02 Obi Wan Very well done!! I did expect more in the thriller dept though!! 4 stars
6/11/02 spaceworm GODFATHERs apart, Pacino's best work. 4 stars
6/10/02 Coitus For a murder suspense movie, it had a "different angle." Could rent it, and not miss much. 3 stars
6/10/02 BrodieMan Suspenseful and well done. Pacino is awesome ! 4 stars
6/08/02 malcolm how did cute-ass Hillary Swank look so boyish in Boys Don't Cry 5 stars
6/07/02 Brendan Pacino and Williams are fabulous, this film is what a psychological thriller should be 5 stars
6/03/02 Poumpus and better than you I was dissapointed, though the acting and directing were fabulous the movie was dull. 3 stars
6/02/02 Suzz great director, actors, cinematograpy; plot so-so with no surprises 3 stars
6/02/02 Teresa Goes beyond who killed who and why, to who can get away with what! Go See!! 4 stars
6/01/02 Mary Lou Exceptional. For me, Pacino can do no wrong anyway, but this may his best work ever. 5 stars
6/01/02 monica I LOVED THIS MOVIE 5 stars
5/31/02 Janine Lay very boring and no thrills, depressing 3 stars
5/31/02 MyztiQ excellent thriller 5 stars
5/31/02 John Kosanovich Good acting, just telling a story, nothing to experience. 3 stars
5/30/02 davey mac way better than anything else in the theatres lately.... 4 stars
5/30/02 Dr Laura Is A Bitch (Doo dah, doo dah...) Engaging, brilliantly acted, had plot holes. 4 stars
5/29/02 Blackops good acting, good movie. I wonder if some of you go to the movie before you make a comment? 4 stars
5/29/02 ajay loved it. 5 stars
5/28/02 Greyjack Very good film. Pacino in top form (and not over-the-top form). Pleasure to watch. 4 stars
5/28/02 P-Nut Robin Williams should stick to comedy. Pacino proves why he is so overrated. 1 stars
5/27/02 Film Guy Great movie. Williams & Pacino were great. Vindar U moron 4 stars
5/26/02 Nick2k different nolan pace. good though. always interesting. 4 stars
5/26/02 billyoby not memento - very average 3 stars
5/26/02 Blubberbot It was ok. Not good. Not bad. 3 stars
5/26/02 rue the whirl superior to the original in my opinion. 5 stars
5/25/02 frank an excellent psychological thriller 4 stars
5/24/02 The Bomb 69 the original was better, though Williams was a much better bad guy than the original 5 stars
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  24-May-2002 (R)



Directed by
  Christopher Nolan

Written by
  Hillary Seitz

  Al Pacino
  Hilary Swank
  Robin Williams
  Maura Tierney
  Martin Donovan
  Nicky Katt

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