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Awesome: 37.5%
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Pretty Bad: 4.17%
Total Crap: 2.5%

6 reviews, 84 user ratings

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Insomnia (2002)
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by Scott Weinberg

"Stark, dark, bright & brilliant, Insomnia is one great movie."
5 stars

John Carpenter knew it when directing his 1982 classic The Thing. Filmmakers extraordinaire Joel & Ethan Coen also knew it when they were putting together their phenomenal Fargo. If you're trying to create an insular, sterile and unsettling world for moviegoers to get lost in, nothing works like snow. Lots of it. Coming off his universally adored Memento, director Christopher Nolan paints a devilishly tenuous ice-coated canvas in Insomnia, a tightly-wound and fascinating thriller that could stand as one of 2002's best.

Set in the white-washed and brutally beautiful landscapes of Alaska (actually filmed in Vancouver, but the result is no less amazing), Nolan's Insomnia is a loose remake of Erik Skjoldbjærg's 1997 film of the same name. As I have not seen the original film (yet), I can't comment on how close the two films actually are, but it's clearly evident that this remake more than stands on its own. If word-of-mouth is true and the original is even better than this version, I can't wait to see it.

Because (remake or not) Insomnia is a damn good thriller, one of those 2-hour journeys that fly by quickly as audiences gasp excitedly and wring their knuckles expectantly. Not content to present the audience with a simple cat-and-mouse pursuit, Nolan and screenwriter Hillary Seitz repeatedly up the tension and play a few tricks on the audience as well.

Will Dormer and Hap Eckhart are two of L.A.'s finest detectives, sent on a curious assignment: head up a murder investigation in the remote Alaska town of Nightmute. Why two decorated detectives would be assigned such a thankless assignment is made clear early on; the pair (along with several other officers) are currently under Internal Affairs investigation, and the L.A. brass believe the partners are better served working out of town for a few weeks.

After some astute and effective inquiries, Dormer and Eckhart (along with several local officers) believe they have their suspect surrounded. Following a haunting and tragic search, Dormer inadvertantly kills his fog-blind partner, and if that's not damning enough - the murderer is the only witness to Dormer's horrifying mistake. In order to avoid further suspicion from the Internal Affairs powers-that-be, Dormer must cover up Hap's death by pinning it on his escaped suspect...which makes things doubly difficult once the killer's identity is discovered.

Everything I've divulged takes place in the first 30 minutes of the movie, so don't hate me for divulging 'spoilers'. Although the introductory scenes are as compelling as anything in Insomnia, the movie really starts to roll after Hap's accidental demise. Dormer's inability to confess begins a tense and hypnotic web of lies and deceit, and the only person who knows the truth is a cold-blooded killer.

The stark, brilliant, unending sunshine of Nightmute soon becomes a curse to Dormer, as the detective is unable to acclimate to a land without night. As the investigation drags on, Dormer's inability to find answers combines with his desperate need to protect his sin, resulting in one strung-out and desperate detective. As neophyte policewoman Ellie Burr conducts an investigation on Hap's death, local author Walter Finch pops out of the woodwork as an unexpectedly credible murder suspect. Dormer's unending day just keeps getting worse.

Simply put, Insomnia is a cause for celebration. It's a deliberate, intense, and altogether hypnotic thriller. The cast is uniformly excellent, with Al Pacino offering one of his most heart-wrenching and effective performances in years (perhaps ever), Hilary Swank contributes rock-solid support as Officer Burr, and Robin Williams, playing Walter Finch, is nothing short of a revelation. Williams has proved in the past that he has the chops for dramatic performances, but he brings a wide-eyed clarity and logic to Walter Finch that makes the villain all the more fascinating.

A handful of familiar character actors fill up the background quite capably, most notably the underrated Nicky Katt as a skeptical cop and the underused Maura Tierney as a sympathetic innkeeper. Martin Donovan is intense and commanding, although his ill-fated Hap logically doesn't get much screen time after the first 25 minutes.

If you've grown weary of by-the-book thrillers like High Crimes and Murder By Numbers, and you're brave enough to withstand the summertime crowds, Insomnia is an "adult movie" that's definitely worth the trouble. There are a few harrowing chases, but for the most part Insomnia is all about exchanges of dialogue; beautiful, crackling, intense dialogue. It's rare to see such an excellent movie released among the summertime monsters, but it's a safe bet Insomnia will be remembered come Oscar time.

One of the most satisfying crime thrillers in years. See it. And then give the original a rent. It's only fair.

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originally posted: 05/24/02 13:26:02
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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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