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Overall Rating

Awesome: 37.5%
Worth A Look44.17%
Just Average: 11.67%
Pretty Crappy: 4.17%
Sucks: 2.5%

6 reviews, 84 user ratings

Insomnia (2002)
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by Rob Gonsalves

"Christopher Nolan doth murder sleep."
5 stars

Beauty is in short supply at the movies just now -- I mean real beauty, not pretty pictures painted by computers. 'Insomnia,' the new remake of Erik Skjoldbjærg's brooding 1997 psychodrama, gives us opening images so stunning they're almost painful: a small plane angling over the rocky, godforsaken outskirts of Alaska.

The terrain looks savage and unforgiving, as if nature itself had decided to keep its secrets by keeping outsiders away. But the plane continues on, carrying two detectives from Los Angeles -- Will Dormer (Al Pacino) and Hap Eckhart (Martin Donovan). They've come to investigate a murder, but we know it won't be that simple, not in this bleak place where the sun never sets but never really seems to shine, either.

The original Insomnia was an artsy mood piece, and highly enjoyable as such, anchored by the sturdy presence of Stellan Skarsgård as the sleepless detective hiding dark secrets and impulses. The new version, directed by Christopher Nolan from a more fleshed-out script by Hillary Seitz, wears its insecurities on its sleeve. Nolan's previous films, 1998's trim, stark cheapie Following and last year's famous Memento, took the unknowability of truth not only as their theme but as their style. Here, Nolan doesn't mess with nonlinear narrative, but near the end, when Will is asked a crucial question and says "I don't know anymore," we believe him. If Nolan's work is about anything, it's how nobody can be trusted, least of all oneself.

Will stares down wearily at the corpse on the slab -- a high-school girl beaten to death. With him is eager local rookie cop Ellie Burr (Hilary Swank), too awed by Will's legend (she did a paper on one of his cases) and by the very fact of murder in the dull town of Nightmute to be very upset at the loss of life. Nobody in town seems terribly surprised that the girl was killed; maybe it was her reputation, or maybe the land itself gives the impression that it wants blood sacrifice. With sunlight piercing his motel room at all hours, Will can't get any sleep. "No rest for the wicked" was the tagline of the first Insomnia, equally appropriate here. Will may be a great man, but he's too casually intimate with death and evil to be a good man. The job has begun to decay him from the inside out.

Al Pacino has simultaneously never looked worse or better. His voice seems just about shot, until he gets it up into a roar (infrequent here, and the more effective for it) and reminds us who's in charge. Generally, this isn't one of his airhorn performances; he makes us lean forward and listen. He stays still, yet manages to suggest restlessness and constant mental fidgeting. With young actresses like Hilary Swank and Maura Tierney (as the motel clerk) he is fatherly and protective; he gets a weird vibe going with Katharine Isabelle, of last year's superb Canadian horror film Ginger Snaps, as the dead girl's best friend (blink and you'll miss Isabelle's costar in that film, Emily Perkins, delivering the eulogy). With men, like the untroubled Martin Donovan and the highly troubled Robin Williams, Pacino is subtly combative, as if Will were holding on to macho codes that life beat out of him decades ago.

Williams, as the story's "wild card" (his character's phrase), doesn't stretch as much as you've been led to believe. Only those unfamiliar with his brief, terrific dramatic work in Dead Again and on TV's Homicide could be all that surprised by his unsympathetic turn here. What's new about his work in Insomnia is the sense of suppressed hysteria: He doesn't seem just about to go off on a manic riff -- he seems about to do something violent. Nolan gets a lot of mileage out of the potential for violence, yet I only count five gunshots that draw blood, one of which is fired into a dog carcass.

This director has an unerring knack for arresting imagery and disorienting narrative that often plays you for a sap; given the latter, I wouldn't trust him as far as I could throw him, but given both, I wouldn't miss his movies.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=5915&reviewer=416
originally posted: 02/01/07 20:51:38
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User Comments

9/21/17 morris campbell good script good acting good film IMHO 4 stars
8/29/11 Monday Morning Good story but slow to unfold. Could have cut, like 30 minutes from it. 4 stars
12/06/10 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
11/25/08 Shaun Wallner Thought this was a good film. 5 stars
7/21/08 the dork knight Probably one of the last good movies you'll ever see from Pacino 5 stars
1/18/08 Pamela White great plot and realistic sleep deprivation subplot 5 stars
8/20/07 Bhavesh Good movie 4 stars
7/25/07 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
2/22/07 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
7/12/06 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
10/09/05 Agent Sands Robin Williams steals the whole fucking movie. 4 stars
8/21/05 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
5/27/05 Indrid Cold A little disappointing, but still a meaty, entertaining thriller. 4 stars
9/25/04 NJ Cup Winner 95-00-03 Three Oscar winners make for one entertaining movie that stayed w/me 4 stars
5/27/04 Me Good acting, but it was kind of boring... 4 stars
5/20/04 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
1/21/04 fhfj Taut storyline, acting, and direction, though somewhat predictable. 4 stars
12/09/03 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
5/29/03 abhijeet bhadra It"s informative , should include pictures. 3 stars
5/13/03 Mr. Hat (I'm Back Mo'Fos!!!) Good acting, directing, and kind of a nice story. Not bad. 4 stars
3/09/03 Matt Thiel Nolan's mediocre followup to Memento. Sigh. 2 stars
1/28/03 fraz visually appealing, complex plot and characters, believable acting 4 stars
1/02/03 . 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
11/20/02 Phil M. Aficionado Well done except for a few contrivances; An A-/B+ kind of effort. See it. 4 stars
11/10/02 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
11/05/02 Punk_Ass No real twists or turns. Ending sucked. ok if you need to kill some time 3 stars
10/26/02 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
10/21/02 Ken The main character died, so it must be good! Boring, boring, boring. 2 stars
10/17/02 Reini Urban not a masterpiece, too olished, but quite okay 4 stars
10/15/02 TwIsTeD Patch Adams Beats Ass 5 stars
9/28/02 Peter Sherlock Very average. Too many inconsistencies. 2 stars
9/25/02 James Renwick Ultimately doesn't work - Dialogue - Dialogue - Dialogue 4 stars
9/10/02 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
8/18/02 Mr. Hat (I'm Back!) Christopher Nolan is a really good director, and the cast is great. 4 stars
8/12/02 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
7/01/02 KMG It was boring. Pacino should've just covered the windows! 3 stars
6/29/02 Holland Weeks Effective acting; double plot tension; plausible character complexity 5 stars
6/27/02 Bada Bing Crosby All three stars deliver the goods & director is quantum..funny joke by Katt, too! 5 stars
6/21/02 cleansparks very good movie, pacino is excellent 5 stars
6/19/02 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
6/14/02 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
6/10/02 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
6/09/02 BrodieMan Suspenseful and well done. Pacino is awesome ! 4 stars
6/07/02 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
6/02/02 Poumpus and better than you I was dissapointed, though the acting and directing were fabulous the movie was dull. 3 stars
6/01/02 Suzz great director, actors, cinematograpy; plot so-so with no surprises 3 stars
6/01/02 Teresa Goes beyond who killed who and why, to who can get away with what! Go See!! 4 stars
5/31/02 Mary Lou Exceptional. For me, Pacino can do no wrong anyway, but this may his best work ever. 5 stars
5/31/02 monica I LOVED THIS MOVIE 5 stars
5/30/02 Janine Lay very boring and no thrills, depressing 3 stars
5/30/02 MyztiQ excellent thriller 5 stars
5/30/02 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
5/29/02 Dr Laura Is A Bitch (Doo dah, doo dah...) Engaging, brilliantly acted, had plot holes. 4 stars
5/28/02 Blackops good acting, good movie. I wonder if some of you go to the movie before you make a comment? 4 stars
5/28/02 ajay loved it. 5 stars
5/27/02 Greyjack Very good film. Pacino in top form (and not over-the-top form). Pleasure to watch. 4 stars
5/27/02 P-Nut Robin Williams should stick to comedy. Pacino proves why he is so overrated. 1 stars
5/26/02 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
5/25/02 Blubberbot It was ok. Not good. Not bad. 3 stars
5/25/02 rue the whirl superior to the original in my opinion. 5 stars
5/24/02 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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