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Al Pacino, Hilary Swank, Robin Williams, Martin Donovan, Nicky Katt

Directed by: Christopher Nolan
Written by: Hillary Seitz
Produced by: Edward L. McDonnell, Andrew A. Kosove, Broderick Johnson, Paul Junger Witt
Distributor: Warner Brothers ,

US: 24/05/02 UK: 30/08/02

Sleep-deprived detective goes to small Alaskan town to investigate the murder of a teenage girl. Forced into a psychological game of cat-and-mouse by the primary suspect, events escalate and the detective finds his own stability dangerously threatened.

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Cincinnati Enquirer/ Chicago Sun-Times
Daily Telegraph/ LA Times
New York Post / New York Times
USA Today / Rolling Stone

Pacino has a friendly disagreement with Williams over a particular scene

SLEEPLESS IN SAASKATCHEWAN... It's great to report that two genuine movie stars shine brighter than the midnight sun with this slow movie about an Alaskan murder that grips tighter than a Husky in heat.

Insomnia is Al Pacino's best movie since Sea of Love; and Robin William's best since... well, since I started falling asleepduring schmaltz like Good Will, Patch Adams.

Pacino plays a right clever dick LA detective sent oop North to help the local plods and plodettes solve the brutal murder of a local high school girl.

The reason he and his partner get this chilly not-so plum assignment is a current internal affairs investigation into Pacino and his possible framing of a stone-cold guilty child killer back in LA.

The plot revolves around Pacino's inability to sleep in the land of the midnight sun. But is it just the lack of night - or is it his guilty conscience, or worry, or a mixture of all three.

Whatever - Pacino seems to disintegrate before our eyes over the six day investigation. His cool bravado slowly sinking into a sea of ambiguity over right and wrong, the ends justifying the means - and exactly mirroring the collapse of his face into worry lines and crevices.

Into the mix Brit director Christopher Nolan and writer Hillary Seitz toss an infatuated female detective played very believably by Hilary Swank. She's been an avid fan of Pacino's case solving career since Detective School (no joke).

With Pacino hot on the tail of the killer, his partner (and potential witness against him in the IA investigation) is fatally shot. Pacino claims it was the local killer as they closed in on him all so-symbolically in a fog on the beach. Now the hunter becomes the hunted as the killer and the young detective home in on him.

This is a quietly gripping thriller, made all the better by William's understated and almost sympathetic performance as a Humbert Humbert (Lolita) fantasist who can't see himself as a corruptor of a young woman still a child in the eyes of the law.

Nolan has shown himself well able to shape other peoples material and major movie talent into his own directing style, so memorably started with last year's critically acclaimed arthouse smash 'Memento'.

Insomnia is definitely worth losing sleep over to catch on the big screen.

For his third film, Nolan (Following, Memento) sets out to prove that he can handle a straightforward narrative with this adaptation of the 1997 Norwegian drama and a cast that includes three Oscar winners. The result is a thoroughly haunting and insidious thriller about personal demons and guilty consciences. L.A. cops Will and Hap (Pacino and Donovan) are summoned to rural Alaska to help with a murder case. Back home they're under investigation for shady dealings, but the young local cop (Swank) sees Will as her hero. Which is a bit of a problem when in the course of the investigation Will "accidentally" kills someone. Despite this, and the fact that he can't sleep in the land of midnight sun, Will finds a trail to the murderer (Williams), a creepy man who seems to want to be caught but still engages Will in a deeply disturbing cat and mouse game.

Motives are the thing here, and the film sharply reveals each character (including a number of small supporting roles) in minute detail as the puzzle pieces fall into place. Each person is a bundle of complex emotions and frustrations, dealing with side issues that profoundly affect the central mystery. And every member of the cast is fantastic. Pacino gives an astonishingly internal turn as a man tortured by his conscience, trying to bend the rules without losing his integrity. Or maybe it's too late for that. He knows that there are only two reasons why he can't sleep at night: either he's done something wrong or there's a piece of the puzzle missing ... but which is it? Nolan brings out these ideas with insinuating camerawork, sharp editing, clever music (by David Julyan) and a terrific use of the setting as an integral part of the story. This is a tightly woven film--suspenseful without ever being terribly exciting, a slow psychological burn that grips us with its sheer intelligence, even though it's rather slow and listless. And it's also, at its core, a standard cop drama, complete with the climactic crescendo of violence. But by then we're completely in its spell.


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