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Insomnia (2002)

Don’t close your eyes

Directed by:

Christopher Nolan

Rating: 7/10

Running Time: 118 minutes

UK Certificate: 15

On DVD

If you think good ol’ Al Pacino looks knackered at the start of this movie, trust me – it’s nothing compared to how he looks two hours later. Sleep deprivation can really take it out of a guy, particularly when the guy in question is in a part of the world that never gets dark, he’s trying to solve a homicide case, and his conscience isn’t quite as clear as it should be. Welcome, folks, to the baggy-eyed world of gum-chewing sleuth Will Dormer.

Flown from LA to Alaska to investigate the murder of a teenage girl, Dormer (Pacino) and his partner Hap Eckhart (Martin Donovan) waste little time in springing a trap for the killer (Robin Williams) in a fogbound wood. But when bullets start flying in the wrong direction, the power pendulum seems to swing in towards our suspect, and an unlikely pact gradually becomes an inevitable one.

A remake of the 1997 Norwegian film of the same name, ‘Insomnia’ is director Christopher Nolan’s first project since the ultra-fascinating ‘Memento’. Though it cannot match ‘Memento’ in the mind-boggling stakes, it doesn’t try to. This film is more concerned with showing us the central character’s handling of his own feelings of guilt, than attempting to puzzle us. Twists are kept to a minimum, and the plot itself is fairly straightforward.

Pacino, as always, is brilliant – you’ll almost feel his increasing tiredness and tetchiness yourself as he goes from one sleepless night to the next (as a nice aside, the film makes a point of making us aware of the time, but it’s often unclear whether it’s a.m. or p.m.).

I was less convinced by Williams in his role as the deceptively violent Walter Finch, and Hilary Swank is seldom challenged as rookie ‘tec Ellie Burr. Similarly, Maura Tierney is strangely under-used as the local hotel landlady. But it’s by no means the first movie that’s worth seeing predominantly because of Pacino’s presence – and it probably won’t be the last. You could do much worse than giving ‘Insomnia’ a go – just make sure you get a good night’s kip afterwards.

It's Got: A terrific ending.

It Needs: To stay off the coffee. It just makes it worse.

DVD Extras Choice of commentary from either Christopher Nolan or the cast and crew, four documentaries (‘180 Degrees’, ‘Day & Night: The Making of Insomnia’, ‘In the Fog’ and ‘Eyes Wide Open’), a stills gallery, and some cinematography and production design featurettes. DVD Extras Rating: 8/10

Alternatives:

Insomnia (1997 version)

Summary

Considerably more interesting than sleep.

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