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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars **** WORTH STAYING AWAKE FOR ****
Insomnia is of course a remake of a Norwegian film starring Stellan Skarsgard, directed by Erik Skjoldbjaerg in 1997 but as much as this may make me a heathen to European film culture, I must confess to having never seen the original. However, thanks to one of my good friends (Steve, take a bow) I was lucky enough to see the UK premier of Insomnia as the closing movie of...
Published on March 10 2003 by Mr. N. Carnegie

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars lesser Nolan
I love Christopher Nolan and the filmmaking is first-rate even in this more formulaic type of movie. Basically, it's a thriller but the setting in Alaska in the always daylight summertime there makes the movie what it is.

Now I'm not a big fan at all of Hilary Swank (sorry, those gigantic teeth and her being Steve Sanders' annoying girlfriend at one point on...
Published on Oct. 19 2010 by Brian Maitland


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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars lesser Nolan, Oct. 19 2010
By 
Brian Maitland (Vancouver, BC, Canada) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Insomnia (Widescreen) (DVD)
I love Christopher Nolan and the filmmaking is first-rate even in this more formulaic type of movie. Basically, it's a thriller but the setting in Alaska in the always daylight summertime there makes the movie what it is.

Now I'm not a big fan at all of Hilary Swank (sorry, those gigantic teeth and her being Steve Sanders' annoying girlfriend at one point on "Beverly Hills, 90210" just can never be erased from my brain) or Robin Williams on the big screen but I at least found them tolerable and believable in this. Meaning they must be good actors for me to overcome my completely prejudiced views of their whole body of work.

Anyway, in no way shape or form is this anywhere near as great as Inception, Memento or Following which both contain the same sort of themes of playing with time and people's perceptions of time as well as using the location as really a major part of the film. Throw in the whole Nolan obsession with the human mind and that's where Insomnia is at. Problem is it's at its base level this is still a murder mystery of which way too much gets revealed at the start when Al Pacino shoots his fellow cop accidentally on purpose early in the movie. Don't worry it's not a spoiler as the audience sees and knows this on screen very early in the flick.

I would say it is worth watching but I think it suffers mainly in comparison to Nolan's other majestically brilliant work. Taken on its own, it's a decent almost film noir in some ways and well worth seeing even if it doesn't stack up to Nolan's other films.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars **** WORTH STAYING AWAKE FOR ****, March 10 2003
By 
Mr. N. Carnegie (Kirkcaldy, Scotland, UK.) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Insomnia (Widescreen) (DVD)
Insomnia is of course a remake of a Norwegian film starring Stellan Skarsgard, directed by Erik Skjoldbjaerg in 1997 but as much as this may make me a heathen to European film culture, I must confess to having never seen the original. However, thanks to one of my good friends (Steve, take a bow) I was lucky enough to see the UK premier of Insomnia as the closing movie of the 2002 Edinburgh film festival and lucky enough to see and hear the Director Christopher Nolan say a few words about this fine movie.
Opening with incredibly stunning cinematography of Alaskan ice fields, haggard L.A police detective Will Dormer (Al Pacino) and his partner Hep Eckhart (Martin Donovan) arrive in America's most northerly city to help solve the brutal killing of a teenage girl. Met by a local Detective (Hilary Swank) who openly hero-worships Dormer and his successful career as a Detective, Pacino's character sets about showing the local hicks how it's done. However, it soon transpires that Dormer is only in Alaska in the first place to avoid an ongoing criminal investigation by police Internal Affairs back in Los Angeles and it is not long before his investigation into the Alaskan girl's murder goes horribly wrong. Troubled by his conscience and the never-ending daylight of an Alaskan summer Dormer prays for sleep.
For many people that have seen either of Christopher Nolan's previous two movies (Following and Memento) Insomnia may seem like an odd choice; it's a 'mainstream' Hollywood movie (Warner Brothers studio), it is told in a linear timeframe and it's a remake. However, there must have been obvious attractions apart from the budget and his paycheck. First off, Stephen Soderbergh, who successfully makes mainstream movies with an Indie heart, oversaw production and secondly there was the chance to work with great actors such as Pacino, Swank and Robin Williams, although at this point I have to add that I believe Williams was totally miscast and made an unconvincing villain.
There are some wonderful scenes in this movie, including a nightmare like chase over hundreds of floating logs and the hunt for the killer in a freezing fog. It is also a movie that allows it's stars to shine and this is undoubtedly Pacino's best role (and best movie for many a year) and it is a pleasant change to see him with a decent script in an intelligent movie instead of hamming it up in the likes of The Devil's Advocate, alongside walking surfboard Keanu Reeves. This movie will also undoubtedly and deservedly enhance the careers and reputations of both Director Christopher Nolan and Hilary Swank, who both produce work of depth and subtlety. However, I also feel that much of the credit for what is a beautiful photographed and well-written movie should go to Wally Pfister and (for what is an excellent adapted screenplay) to Hilary Seitz. Insomnia is an excellent movie made by a very modest, very talented young British movie Director. Be warned though, you probably need an IQ to fully appreciate it.
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3.0 out of 5 stars unfortunately "Sleep Aid" would have been a more apt title(although they tried hard to make this one work) 2.5/5, Aug. 20 2007
By 
falcon "disdressed12" (canada) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Insomnia (Widescreen) (DVD)
i didn't like this movie too much.as a matter of fact,it nearly put me
to sleep.how's that for irony.the movie is basically about murder which
occurs in a small Alaskan town.two big city cops are sent to
investigate.the twist to this movie.the sun doesn't set,which throws
everything out of whack for the detectives and complicates their
investigation.Robin Willima is in this one,in another darker role for
him.Al Pacino,Hilary Swank and Martin Donovan also star.there's nothing
wrong with the acting,but the movie is much to methodical,as it slowly
plods from one clue(or non clue) to the next.as i said earlier,i had a
heck of a time staying awake with this one.Christopher Nolan directed
this movie,but he cannot be blamed for this one.the writing is the
culprit here.i suspect,it looked good on paper and even while they were
filming,but somehow the end product doesn't seem to work.i think they
tried really hard with this one,but sometimes things just don't work
out the way you planned.this is not a horrible film,but it's just
missing something.i give "Insomnia" 2.5/5 for the effort.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Insomnia (2002), May 23 2004
By 
This review is from: Insomnia (Widescreen) (DVD)
Director: Christopher Nolan.
Cast: Al Pacino, Robin Williams, Hillary Swank, Maura Tierney, Martin Donovan, Nicky Katt.
Running Time: 118 minutes.
Rated R for violence, language, and brief nudity.
As if Hitchcock woke from the dead and decided to make one last film so his soul could finally rest, he would have made a film very similar to "Insomnia". Although Christopher Nolan is certainly no Hitchcock, this intense suspense-thriller possesses the some of the qualities that make a true classic. The story winds through the nightless town of Nightmute, Alaska, where LAPD detective Will Dormer (played by Al Pacino is an only par performance) investigates a troubling serial killer case. When the investigation takes a sudden, twisting turn, Dormer not only is in pursuit of a killer, but is up against the sleepless psychological trauma that is disrupting his every move.
As Dormer gets closer and closer to the truth, he comes across a startlingly eerie author (Robin Williams), who happens to have vital information about concerning one of the victim's death. As Dormer becomes more involved with the author, his paranoia grows increasingly unstable. Williams steals the show throughout the second half of the film, portraying the role with ease; a haunting character that must have crept mightily out of his soul. Hillary Swank is a some-what misused rookie officer who is one step behind Dormer in solving the case and her peformance is only fair.
Director Nolan uses the excellent Hilary Seitz to his advantage, plotting Dormer's fears and ambitions, tooling Pacino and Williams's characters in a battle of good and evil, yet the good and the evil are presented in an enigmatic, vague fashion that will keep viewers guessing. Entertaining, thrilling, and moderately scary--Hitchcock would have been pretty proud.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Great Performances All Round - Will Defnitely Keep You Up, May 3 2004
This review is from: Insomnia (Widescreen) (DVD)
I would never give Insomnia a definition - a thriller yet sunshine set, a cat-and-rat game yet also rat-jolts-cat, a cruelty murder line yet faded in the psycho confusion. Everything in Insomnia seemed to free out the stereotypes as it's supposed to be. Things of this kind can always be boring and pale if not for atmospheric direction and top-notch performances.
Starring three Oscar winners, Insomnia follows its artistic pacing without losing any commercial attraction. Al Pacino, a top favourite of mine, is prominent again as a sleep-losing yet conscionable veteran cop, occasionally losing his mind but never losing his heart. Robin Williams, gives a convincing flick of a devil shielded with a writer's position. He's shrewd and almost controlling before you, yet fragile and vulnerable behind. The only regret is that the character was reduced at it's screenplay level, with only forty minutes screen time. Williams leads the role as a dominant yet also an undercurrent, with a dark impact, which was insinuated in the endless shining set and Al Pacino's progressive sleeplessness.
Beyond these two men's insomnia circle, Swank, portrayed an idolizing yet astute enough young cop, timely refreshing you and rightfully-oriented when you are becoming fatigued and confused with the two men's psychological battle. Slightly pale yet still lovable at the same time. Maura Tierney also lends a helping hand as the Hotel manager who sympathises with Pacino's character.
Director Chris Nolan covered all these twists with atmospheric directing, not showing off yet blatant which, normally seen in Hollywood thrillers, restrains story-telling and thought-evoking. He delivered a masterpiece which you can see many times without being bored.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A great Alaskan murder mystery, March 7 2004
By A Customer
This review is from: Insomnia (Widescreen) (DVD)
Detective Will Dormer has serious issues on his mind as he and a fellow L.A. detective track down the killer of a teenage girl in the Alaskan wilds. Al Pacino looks worn and haggard as the rumpled, Columbo look-alike sleuth who is a badly flawed detective for reasons that aren't revealed until several minutes into the film. Dormer and the killer, who saw what really happened during a shootout among the rocks near a creek in a thick fog while he was being pursued, play a game of cat-and-mouse, with the murder suspect holding the trump card. Hilary Swank is the adoring Alaskan policewoman Ellie Burr who fawns over Dormer but soon becomes disillusioned by his behavior and begins to give him much closer scrutiny. She suspects something is amiss in his behavior and follows her instincts. The sun seems to shine just once in this gloomy film, at a memorial service for the slain girl. The chase sequence of Dormer running after a fleeing suspect over a river of logs is nice, as is the finale at a wilderness lakeside cabin. The scenes between Pacino and Swank are the best in the film and result in plenty of fireworks at the finale.
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2.0 out of 5 stars Cure for Insomnia, Feb. 25 2004
This review is from: Insomnia (Widescreen) (DVD)
I must say I'm rather disappointed by what seems to be a typical Hollywood "give `em a bigger budget and dumb `em down" treatment of new talents like Nolan. This film, a remake of a 1997 Norwegian film, is quite clearly a mainstream studio product and a waste of a rather promising idea.
***May contain SPOILERS***
The plot begins with the arrival of a pair of Homicide detectives in an Alaskan town to solve the murder of a local girl. Pacino plays the older cop Dormer who rendered insomniac in the perpetual sunlight of the season. An early lead into the killer's whereabouts leads to a stakeout at a cabin hideaway - a treacherous fog befuddles sight and Dormer ends up shooting his partner, apparently by accident. He places the blame on the escaped killer and the investigations are continued. Dormer has the guilt of his partner's death to compound his insomnia and another person knows the truth of the incident - the killer, who has seen Dormer fire the fatal shot. A cat-and-mouse game ensues between the two, with Dormer alternating between hunting down the murderer and covering up his own tracks, while the killer (Robin Williams as Walter Finch, a pulp writer) aims to psyche Dormer into letting him escape - the two end up working out a deal where a third person is framed for the crime. But things go awry in this setup and the film abruptly makes towards a (silly) shootout climax in which Dormer and Finch gun each other down.
The main problem IMO with this film is that it gives off a thorough sense of `under-achievement' in every aspect of it. There were a thousand ways little and big in which the visual and emotional core of the film could have been imbued with substance but really all that seems to have fallen by the wayside if at all considered.
1. The look of most of the film is so utterly generic it's disheartening. The aspect of a sparsely populated settlement who live a season of perpetual sunlight is dealt with in a perfunctory manner that sucks away most of the uniqueness of the film. This should have been a focal point that defined the sensibility and emotional core of the film and it was just thrown off as a two-scene gimmick reference. The entire concept of `light-as-darkness' blinding and disorienting Dormer's character is never approached to an extent worth the mention. Without that really what was the point of shooting the film in Alaska - to show that Alaska's cranky teens and crazy killers were like those in any other part of the country?
2. Pacino seems to have been selected for the role of the haggard Dormer simply because his entire current career seems veered towards playing haggard old men. This is not to say that he does a bad job, he gets pretty effective in some of the scenes that come immediately after the partner's killing but really at very few points does one feel the turmoil and disorientation of Dormer and there are a few bits of sleepwalk acting even for an insomniac character.
3. Robin William's writer-killer character is again a stereotype that has been seen in umpteen movies made before. I really wish they had taken pains over giving his character a different edge - But we're still stuck with the generic loony-killer.
4. The clean-cut rookie cop who's a fan of Dormer (Hilary Swank) seems like a throwaway character although one does not fault Swank's performance. The film would have been tighter in the absence of such extraneous parts.
5. The film lacks any real sophistication relying on cheap `oooh blood' shots to appear edgy.
6. The climax is a total no-brainer. I'm informed that the Norwegian original ends on a morally ambiguous note with the cop getting away with his escapade. Hollywood of course shies away from such subtleties and we're subjected to a pointless gun-battle in the aftermath of which a dying Dormer advises Swank to not `lose her way (towards truth, justice and the American way, one supposes)'
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4.0 out of 5 stars The Moose Hole - Can't Sleep? Watch Insomnia!, Feb. 19 2004
This review is from: Insomnia (Widescreen) (DVD)
Anybody remember Memento? The independent film that critics and movie lovers in general loved so much but never got the public attention or the award recognition that it probably deserved? This wasn't so much a big deal for Newmarket, the studio that distributed the film, since the film went on to make nearly three times its budget but this has to be somewhat upsetting for the filmmakers who wanted more from their work but life goes on. The director of Memento, who is currently in the works with the new Batman project, went on to a new film called Insomnia, based on a Norwegian film of the same name. What makes this film interesting is the casting of certain roles within the film. No, its not just Al Pacino, though he does add some flavor of dramatic talent to the film, it's the casting of Robin Williams as the killer. Williams, who is best known for his comedic performances in Popeye, Aladdin and Hook, isn't the first choice that comes to mind in this area but if it works, the film could spawn a cult status on the same level as Memento.
The story centers on the investigation of a murder in Alaska and the cat and mouse game that the killer instigates with one of the detectives. When a teenage girl is found murdered in a small town in Alaska, a veteran police detective and his partner are sent up to over-see an official investigation. Just as the two close in on the primary suspect of the murder, the veteran detective accidentally kills his partner in a chase, believing he was the murderer. The detective then lies about the accidental homicide and gets away with it. But he soon finds out that he isn't the only living soul who saw it happen. The murderer calls up the detective, who is racked with guilt, and plans to blackmail him into letting him go free. Now the veteran police detective must choose what means more to him, his life or his commitment to justice. The story for Insomnia does a wonderful job at dealing with conflicts of the human psyche when it comes to guilt but wasn't as surprising as Memento was. But this is a small issue as it is hard to follow up to such a critical success was that film was with many critics.
Though the cast of Insomnia represents a wide range of actors and actresses from different performance backgrounds, it doesn't change the fact that they work perfectly together. Al Pacino in the role of the veteran detective brings the film a sense of seniority, which is a good thing in this case, and plays the character perfectly all the way to the end. He showcases a man truly racked with guilt in such a way that it allows his character to really connect with audience members without giving the end to the feature away. Even though it may seem a weird choice for the role of the killer, Robin Williams gives an impressive performance in this film. The veteran comedian seems to be really be adding up his dramatic performances with roles in other adult-oriented features like One Hour Photo and Death to Smoochy and adds to his impressive resume that includes an Oscar winning performance in Good Will Hunting. Hilary Swank, as good as she could have been in this film, isn't given much, in the area of material, that allows her to really expand her acting ability.
Overall, despite lack the suspense and the surprising twists of its predecessor, Memento, Christopher Nolan gives an impressive follow-up with Insomnia that stands above most cop thrillers. The problems lie in the feature's time-length, which felt longer then it should have been, and its pacing, which seemed dragged down in certain areas. The lack of usable material for smaller characters with the film, like Hilary Swank, was a shame in there was a lot of potential for several enjoyable performances but nothing developed. Other then that, Insomnia gives an engaging view into the human psyche and the effects of guilt on the subconscious combined with amazing dramatic performances from Al Pacino and Robin Williams.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Nolan holds back on key strengths in Norwegian remake, Jan. 27 2004
By 
Abhijoy Gandhi (Philadelphia, USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Insomnia (Widescreen) (DVD)
INSOMNIA/ USA 2002 (3.0 Stars)
11 Jan 2004: The first scene from Insomnia, that of a two seater plane gliding over endless glaciers perhaps sets up the mise-en-scene of cold spaces and unexpected occurrences in alien lands. The rest of the film only builds on this growing sense of alienation even as British Director Christopher Nolan takes great care to build the entire film around one single occurrence. While I haven't seen the original Norwegian film of which this namesake is a remake, I can't imagine Scandinavian cinema to be quite so literal, aka Insomnia equals the protagonist never sleeps. My guess would be that Al Pacino's physical manifestation of what might have been a hugely meta-diagetic depiction in the original renders the two films as very different, albeit with a common storyline.
The part I enjoyed the most was the mood that Nolan created through the clever use of texture. A harsh key light with an extra-ordinarily high lighting ratio played out the metaphor for the charred emotional feeling the central character, an upright detective (Pacino) is experiencing. This stylistic element in stark contrast to the polar blues of the Alaskan horizon (where the film is staged) aptly sets the stage for nervous expectation. The spoiler is that Detective Pacino accidentally shoots his partner where they are investigating the murder of a teenage girl in a small Alaskan town. Pacino, who works for the LAPD has a history of disagreement with his partner, and therefore feels compelled to keep the truth to himself. The catch is that the teenage-girl killer has been witness to this mishap.
The killer turns out to be Robin Williams, who surfaces only in the latter part of the movie and whom we have all but forgotten about by now (the fact that he was even a part of this film). The exploration of the relationship between a conniving killer & a seasoned detective with a dark secret leaves the film wanting in the end. Nolan, who so successfully explores Guy Pierce's amnesia in Memento fails on the encore. We are thus left with a film that continues to work on our sub conscience with its artistic mist in never-land, but one that is finally guilty of narrative triteness. Eminently watchable for the transfer of plight and mood, Pacino does a good if somewhat less intelligent job of portraying the hapless Detective, cursed to sleeplessness in a land where the sun ironically never sets.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Nolan holds back on key strengths in Norwegian remake, Jan. 27 2004
By 
Abhijoy Gandhi (Philadelphia, USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Insomnia (Widescreen) (DVD)
INSOMNIA/ USA 2002 (3.0 Stars)
11 Jan 2004: The first scene from Insomnia, that of a two seater plane gliding over endless glaciers perhaps sets up the mise-en-scene of cold spaces and unexpected occurrences in alien lands. The rest of the film only builds on this growing sense of alienation even as British Director Christopher Nolan takes great care to build the entire film around one single occurrence. While I haven't seen the original Norwegian film of which this namesake is a remake, I can't imagine Scandinavian cinema to be quite so literal, aka Insomnia equals the protagonist never sleeps. My guess would be that Al Pacino's physical manifestation of what might have been a hugely meta-diagetic depiction in the original renders the two films as very different, albeit with a common storyline.
The part I enjoyed the most was the mood that Nolan created through the clever use of texture. A harsh key light with an extra-ordinarily high lighting ratio played out the metaphor for the charred emotional feeling the central character, an upright detective (Pacino) is experiencing. This stylistic element in stark contrast to the polar blues of the Alaskan horizon (where the film is staged) aptly sets the stage for nervous expectation. The spoiler is that Detective Pacino accidentally shoots his partner where they are investigating the murder of a teenage girl in a small Alaskan town. Pacino, who works for the LAPD has a history of disagreement with his partner, and therefore feels compelled to keep the truth to himself. The catch is that the teenage-girl killer has been witness to this mishap.
The killer turns out to be Robin Williams, who surfaces only in the latter part of the movie and whom we have forgotten about by now (the fact that he was also a part of this film). The exploration of the relationship between a conniving killer & a seasoned detective with a dark secret leaves the film wanting in the end. Nolan, who so successfully explores Guy Pierce's amnesia in Memento fails on the encore. We are thus left with a film that continues to work on our sub conscience with its artistic mist in never-land, but one that is finally guilty of narrative triteness. Eminently watchable for the transfer of plight and mood, Pacino does a good if somewhat less intelligent job of portraying the hapless Detective, cursed to sleeplessness in a land where the sun ironically never sets.
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