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Insomnia [DVD] [2002]

90 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Actors: Al Pacino, Robin Williams, Hilary Swank, Martin Donovan, Oliver 'Ole' Zemen
  • Directors: Christopher Nolan
  • Writers: Erik Skjoldbjærg, Hillary Seitz, Nikolaj Frobenius
  • Producers: Andrew A. Kosove, Ben Cosgrove, Broderick Johnson, Charles J.D. Schlissel
  • Format: PAL
  • Language: English
  • Subtitles: English, French, Swedish, Norwegian, Danish, Finnish, Dutch
  • Dubbed: French
  • Subtitles For The Hearing Impaired: English
  • Region: Region 2 (This DVD may not be viewable outside Europe. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 16:9 - 2.35:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Classification: 15
  • Studio: Buena Vista Home Entertainment
  • DVD Release Date: 7 July 2003
  • Run Time: 113 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (90 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B00006AGHD
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 3,635 in DVD & Blu-ray (See Top 100 in DVD & Blu-ray)


Product Description

Sent to Alaska to investigate the murder of a teenage girl to avoid an internal affairs investigation, respected LAPD Detective Will Dormer (Al Pacino) finds himself unable to sleep due to the perpetual daylight. But things get worse for the cop when he fouls up an opportunity to catch the killer and, hidden from view, accidentally shoots his partner (Martin Donovan) instead. Dormer then tries to pin the killing on the suspect, pulp fiction novelist Walter Finch (Robin Williams); however, the villain is the one person who saw what actually happened and he begins to use this knowledge against the cop, drawing Dormer into a subtle and dangerous game in which their two fates become inextricably intertwined. Meanwhile, local rookie Ellie Burr (Hilary Swank) is also on Dormer's case as she puts together the pieces of what really happened.


A fairly close remake of an outstanding Norwegian movie of the same name, Insomnia is director Christopher Nolan's follow-up to his breakthrough movie Memento. It's very much the sort of project that seems designed to be a stepping-stone from independent glory to the Hollywood A-list status. It has the right subject matter, stars (Al Pacino, Robin Williams), supporting cast (Hilary Swank, Martin Donovan), an audience-friendly intellectual thriller format and enough bizarre cinematic ideas to allow for directorial bravura.

Evading the heat of an Internal Affairs investigation, Los Angeles hotshot homicide cop Dormer (Pacino) flies north to Alaska to dig into the murder of a local girl--but a botched trap for the killer leads to a foggy shoot-out that goes wrong. This leads to an alliance between the cop and the killer, who offers Dorma a nasty bargain. Making the situation worse is the fact that Dormer can't sleep, his body clock thrown off by the 24-hour thin sunlight of the town of Nightmute, which affords Pacino a chance to crawl deeply inside a flawed hero on the point of cracking up. There's one terrific chase scene, with two clumsy middle-aged guys, leading to an intense and memorable peril. It slightly over-eggs the original story, with a Hollywooden tinge, but it's still compelling, grown-up drama. --Kim Newman

On the DVD: Insomnia offers a wealth of DVD special features, most of which can be found inside the "Production Diaries", including a splendid making-of featurette filled with great cinematography and a haunting soundtrack. There is also an interesting documentary short on insomnia the condition, relating the problems sleep deprivation can cause. The commentaries take a new angle by asking relevant cast and crew members to comment on a scene specific to them rather than listening to the whole film with a commentary, which is refreshing and a concise way of providing the information. --Nikki Disney

Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Read It Yourself on 15 Mar. 2014
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
Did I ever know what insomnia is? Sure it's not being able to sleep, but what does it do to you??

I think I know now, as I can feel myself addressing it right here, I've been up for nearly 17 hours. But at least I can sleep, this guy can go 5 days without a blink.

The film seems to say something about small town mentalities and what it's like living in one. I'm from one and I recognize certain aspects of human behaviours and attitiudes. Al Pacino's character holds it together as best he can - the interesting fact being that he has had to cut corners throughout his career and they are catching up with him more than he will catch up with sleep. He is tormented by this and makes another serious mistake. That scene is in the fog - again, great attention to detail as I was driving in the fog a couple of nights ago (naturally).

He is trying to catch a child killer in the form of Mrs Doubt..No, that's Robin Williams of course, he's taking on a serious role and you do wish he'd taken on more since, cos it shows you another side to him and it's good. Williams torments Pacino throughout and you get the impression that Pacino is fighting the tide of opinion, in a town happy to settle for any result.

Overall this is a good man fading away, tormented by his demons and the past. It is gripping and it really feels like this manhunt is taking place in the wild west, except this is Alaska, a place where it's always light...

This film had a profound effect on me, especially when you consider we've had the Batman trilogy off this director since. It's moody and the eternal appeal for me is that it is the portrayal of a man trying to keep his head above water whilst doing the very important job of catching someone dangerous. It shows you what life is like in moments of personal turmoil and gives you a real insight into what survival means at that point. Moving.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Mark Pearce on 16 Oct. 2006
Format: DVD
With Michael Mann slipping of late, Christopher Nolan seems destined to become the No 1 exponent of style and substance mainstream cinema.Remaking the superb 1997 Norwegian thriller of the same name and relocating it to Alaska, the story follows two L.A.P.D detectives who to escape an internal affairs enquiry go north to aid in the search for the killer of a college student. Once there a botched stakeout results in death and recrimination, the killer then starts to taunt one of the detectives who begins to unravel as the pressure of the case as well as the continual daylight starts to get to him. Nolan reins in Pacino's excesses to great reward and there are smart supporting turns from Robin Williams, Hilary Swank and the excellent Martin Donovan.High on suspense and a well sustained atmosphere of desolation both physical and spiritual this along with the Bourne Identity are the best American Thrillers of the last 10 years.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Spike Owen TOP 500 REVIEWER on 22 Mar. 2012
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
And a bad cop cant sleep because his conscience wont let him.

Insomnia is directed by Christopher Nolan and written by Erik Skjoldbjærg and Nikolaj Frobenius (1997 screenplay). It stars Al Pacino, Robin Williams, Hilary Swank, Maura Tierney, Martin Donovan and Nicky Katt. Music is scored by David Julyan and cinematography by Wally Pfister. It's a remake of a 1997 Norwegian film of the same name.

LAPD detective Will Dormer (Pacino) and his partner Hap Eckhart (Donovan) travel to the remote Alaskan town of Nightmute to aid the local cops investigating the savage murder of a teenage girl. But Dormer leaves behind an Internal Affairs Investigation that gnaws away at him, and when a potential bust of the murder suspect goes tragically wrong, his conscious gets attacked on two fronts. By lack of sleep and by the killer himself.

It's a House of Cards.

Viewing from afar it's easy to be cynical and suggest that Insomnia is just an American remake cash in. Bigger budget, bigger stars and directed by a indie darling of the critics moving into the big league. While on the surface the plot looks to be another in a long line of cops and villains thrillers where procedural unfolds and evil is ultimately brought down at the end. Yet Insomnia is so much more than that, it's a deep movie dealing in complex psychological issues, a blanc-noir of some character substance, a picture clinically put together around one man's descent into a private hell, with the beautiful Alaskan backdrop perversely claustrophobic and Anthony Mann like in being at one with Will Dormer's fragmented state of mind.

Killing changes you. You know that.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Trevor Willsmer HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWER on 3 Nov. 2006
Format: DVD
Christopher Nolan's 2002 remake of Insomina is sadly his weakest film in an otherwise impressive filmography. The main problem is the relentless softening and sentimentalising of the material: Pacino's cop is much more sociable and wise rather than the Skaarsgard's morally empty cold fish, and is consequently much less interesting. Nolan keeps Pacino's shouty moments to a minimum and he does a much more impressive job of the sleep deprivation, but the audience-friendly characterization results in a clich?d stereotype on a predictable journey to inevitable redemption.

Sadly, the dilution doesn't end with Pacino but runs throughout the film. In this version - for those familiar with the original - the dog is already dead to avoid anything that might alienate us from the hero, the women are mostly father confessor figures, the hotel receptionist IS polite to the shot man, there's no kitten scene, Hilary Swank is saddled with a horrible "I know you're a good cop even if you don't" scene that lacks the cold condemnation and loss of trust of the original's finale and, most damagingly, it's strongly implied that the girl's murder was not accidental, which draws a line between cop and killer. A couple of key scenes are badly directed, most notably the shooting in the fog that highlights Nolan's problems with action scenes (although there is one good chase over logs in the river).

There are, however, strong points, mostly once Robin Williams enters the scene. The film does briefly address the complicity between cop and killer and takes interesting detours from the original, but it's still a film that works for a couple of reels at a time then goes off the boil for another couple of reels before staging another recovery.
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