Popkorn Junkie

Movie review for the film Insomnia starring Al Pacino, Robin Williams, and Hilary Swank
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Insomnia (Double Sided)
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Note: This film has an R rating.

Junkie Rating:

This film received 3 pops out of 4 pops.This film received 3 pops out of 4 pops.This film received 3 pops out of 4 pops.This film received 3 pops out of 4 pops.


Cast and Credits

Christopher Nolan (Director) 
Al Pacino (Will Dormer) 
Robin Williams (Walter Finch) 
Hilary Swank (Ellie Burr) 
Maura Tierney (Rachel Clement) 
Jonathan Jackson (Randy Stetz) 

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Buy Insomnia on DVD
Buy Insomnia on DVD


Buy Insomnia, the original on DVD
Buy Insomnia, the original on DVD


The original motion picture sound track
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      Anyone who has seen the brilliant, original "Memento" will probably walk into this film with high expectations.  Well, if you have seen it, then you won't be disappointed by this equally gripping thriller that will keep your eyes glued to the screen. 

     Al Pacino is Detective Will Dormer.  He flies to Alaska to investigate the murder of a 17-year-old girl, along with his partner Hap (Martin Donovan).  One day he spots the suspected killer heading over to his cabin.  While in hot pursuit of the suspect, Dormer runs through an excess of fog and accidentally shoots his partner.  The murder is covered up, and the only witness is the suspect himself, Walter Finch (Robin Williams)--a reclusive author of bad detective novels.  

     Because of his partner's death, Dormer loses sleep night after night.  He receives taunting phone calls from Finch, and the two of them finally meet on a ferry.  Finch shamelessly admits to murdering the girl, but feels secure since they both have a secret--they both murdered someone instinctively, without any motives. 

     Pacino again delivers a splendid performance, worthy of an Oscar nod.  I'm not sure what was his last film, but it feels like a very long time since I've seen him in a movie, so I was delighted to see one of my favorite actors grace the screen.  Of course, I was most curious--like I'm sure many others are--to see how Robin Williams would pan out as the villain.  After finding out he was going to play the villain, I was stunned.  Yet I wasn't surprised that he would be able to pull it off.  Williams is a hugely versatile actor, who's played everything from a divorced father disguising as a nanny in "Mrs. Doubtfire" to a quiet, introverted doctor, helping out a patient with Parkinson's in "Awakenings."  Despite his goofy personality, he knows how to discipline himself when the time's right.  His role as Walter Finch could've been easily hammed up, but Williams played it perfectly--without underplaying and without overplaying.  Even Denzel Washington went over-the-top in his Oscar-winning role in "Training Day."  But Williams went for subtlety and he was totally convincing.  To top off the Oscar-winning cast is Hilary Swank, of "Boys Don't Cry" fame.  Though she doesn't carry the film, she delivers another fine performance.  And after seeing her as the gender-bending Brandon Teena in the aforementioned film, I was stunned by how beautiful she really is.  

     This is not only a suspenseful thriller, but it's well-written and intelligent.  There's no cheap plot twist at the end.  The whole plot revolves around the cat-and-mouse game between Dormer and Finch, both insomniacs with skeletons in the closet.  The characters are all multi-faceted, especially Pacino's.  My heart was pumping throughout the film.  I'm often fascinated by stories involving a lot of forensic detective work, and that's another reason I was hooked.  "Insomnia" is very rich in texture--it works on three levels:  as a deep character study, a cat-and-mouse detective thriller and an intriguing mystery.  Nolan scored big with "Memento" and he scored big again!  I hope he keeps up the good work, because he has great promise as an up-and-coming director.  

     -- Matt
( 3 1/2 out of 4 pops )


Talk about this film with other Popkorn Junkies


Other Junkie's opinions.....

      Mike ( 4 out of 4 pops )

      Insomnia is a smashing, smart and engrossing follow-up movie by director Nolan to his great debut film "Memento".  It is so refreshing to see an American suspense thriller which puts character, style, and substance over silly plot twists and recycled action sequences.  Everything is top notch about this movie from the script, the direction, the cinematography, and finally to the fabulous acting.  Nolan proves to us that "Memento" was no fluke and that he is already a most talented and innovative director who will have many more great films to come.  While this is certainly a murder, suspense thriller, the film is much more a character based one which takes us deep into the characters in order to let us learn about them by what they say and by what they do.  And the film becomes more of a morality play instead of an action vehicle where we are never certain whether we are watching a good cop go bad or a bad cop finally paying for his past sins.   The story moves at such an engrossing pace where every word spoken and facial expression is not to be missed.  The cinematography is just marvelous here, with light being critical to the story as a metaphor for Dormer's guilt.  And the beautiful, stark Alaskan landscape makes a great contrast to the dark events going on.  Pacino once again shows why he is one of the greatest actors of all time.  He slowly shows the accumulated effect of little if no sleep and we see this alert, quick-witted cop in the beginning slowly and wrenchingly become unglued as the film progresses.  We feel his physical and mental exhaustion as we see his face appear to look more haggard and ravaged as the story unfolds.  Williams is also brilliant here; he brings a scary, haunting performance to his writer psychopath character.  And Swank puts in a realistic performance as a young cop trying to learn from Pacino's vast police experience.  This film will certainly be on most critic's top ten list for 2002 and should be remembered next year at Oscar time.  Fans of engrossing suspense stories will love this film as well as Pacino's performance.  I can't wait to see this one again.

      Patsy ( 2 out of 4 pops )

      I thought  this movie was pretty lame.  I expected a suspenseful thriller and all I got was a long, boring, detective story set in Alaska.  Fine, maybe it was supposed to be more of a character driven film-- but then why tout it as a thriller-- it definitely was not that at all.  I mean, it's like some one just said one day-- "Hey, let's be really original and make a movie in Alaska."  How's that original?  "Oh, I mean, let's make a movie in Alaska where there is daylight 24 hours a day."  Wow, that is original!  Right.  Just because the setting was different didn't make the movie interesting to me.  Whatever, think what you want-- all I can say is that I love thrillers and detective stories ala the T.V. show "CSI"-- but I thought this movie was pretty sucky.  Rent it if you want-- but don't bother wasting your money  at the theaters.

      Billy Ray ( 4 out of 4 pops )

      "Insomnia" is a movie for people who like substance in a film--there is no way around that fact.  Most of the people who have given it negative reviews just don't go to the movies for substance--they go for flash and dazzle, nothing more.  This film is so intricate in detail and character development, that it makes me wonder how director Christopher Nolan got to be so damn good.  True, this isn't as complicated and visually stunning as his previous effort "Memento", but it far exceeds it in character development and character performances.  By the end of the film, we know just about everything we need to know about Al Pacino to know that he is an ultimately good cop, who just made some bad choices.  And, by the end of the film, we know enough to pretty much sum up Robin William's character as psychopath who got too carried away writing his mystery novels.  Everything about this film is tactful, elegant, and beautiful.  Watching Pacino suffer through his insomnia is very realistic, and Williams does a fine job portraying a villain, who tries not to be so bad, but just can't escape it--sometimes he seems almost childlike, while other times he seems almost demonic.  The location shooting in Alaska adds something extra special to this film because it is not the normal environment for a movie of this type.  The strong performances are so strong because they come from such highly developed characters.  Director Nolan has woven a powerful, intriguing thriller that lives up to all of the hype it has received.  I warn those of you who have zero taste in movies to not see this film because you will be disappointed.  Those of us who enjoy substance in a film will find it very entertaining.  Boy, it seems like I'm just giving every film four pops nowadays...either I'm losing my taste or there have been a lot of good films released lately...I think the latter sums it up nicely.  This one if certainly worth anyone's while.

      James ( 0 out of 4 pops )

      Yet another American remake of a foreign film made not long ago. First (well in my memory anyways) there was "Vanilla Sky", now this. Only the "Vanilla Sky" remake was actually pretty good. The original "Insomnia" is a Norweigen film starring Stellen Skarsgard. Made in 1997. The remake sucks. It's dull, boring, and just tries too hard. But hey, you still get to see Al Pacino's signature scream! Gimme a friggin break. This bum couldn't act even if he tried his best (and I'm not even sure he did that). Robin Williams is good, but then again when is he not? Hillary should go make another "Karate Kid" sequel, because this remake stinks, like a dead skunk in the middle of the road.