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Insomnia

Insomnia

Genders: Crime, Thriller, Mystery

Director: Christopher Nolan

Writer: Hillary Seitz, Nikolaj Frobenius

Actors: Al Pacino, Robin Williams, Hilary Swank, Martin Donovan

Year: 2002
Run time: 1h 58min
IMDB score: 7.1
Updated: one year ago

Movie infomation

Movie name: Insomnia

Genders: Crime, Thriller, Mystery

Imdb Score: 7.1

Runtime: 1h 58min

Released: 24 May 2002

Director: Christopher Nolan

Writer: Hillary Seitz, Nikolaj Frobenius

Actors: Al Pacino, Robin Williams, Hilary Swank, Martin Donovan

Box Office: $67.2M

Company: Warner Bros. Pictures

OfficialWebsite

Imdb Link

Insomnia Available Subtitles

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English subtitles Insomnia4 years ago
Dutch subtitles Insomnia4 years ago
Greek subtitles Insomnia4 years ago
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Trailer


Review

(Obvious comment -->) This movie kept me wide awake

5/10 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.

4 years ago

Excellent Performances, Especially Williams

8/10 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.

4 years ago

An intense character study set against a psychological 'cat and mouse' game... that

5/10 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: ***

4 years ago

a masterful psychological thriller

5/10 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.

4 years ago

Nolan can now be considered one of the best!

8/10 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!

4 years ago