Christopher Nolan’s Insomnia Review – Delightful

Inception Review – The Emperor Has No Clothes

Over the last decade, so much attention has been focused, first on Memento, then on Batman Begins and finally on Dark Knight that many movie buffs are unaware that in-between the first two movies Christopher Nolan also directed a fine movie called Insomnia.

Hey, some moviegoers are so consumed with Memento and its unusual, non-linear narrative style that they almost come in their undies jetties at the mere mention of this movie.

Here’s what one gushing SI reader ejaculated about Memento recently:

Memento was faaaar better than Insomnia.. so faaar that they can’t be in the same sentence….plot-wise, Memento was better than TDK.. much better

Ha ha ha.

Guess the wifey had to use a double-spoon of Tide to wash off the stains. 😉

Folks, far be it for us to say that Memento is a bad movie because it’s not. Memento is a good movie that deserved the hype and hoopla bestowed on it.

But at the same time let’s not lose sight of the fact Insomnia is a very engaging film too and one that made almost three times the money at the box-office that Memento did (Source: Christopher Nolan’s Filmography on Wiki).

Memento was not every one’s cup of tea but Insomnia certainly seemed so (at least going by the box-office numbers).

Dark Knight
Given the imminent release of Christopher Nolan”s new movie Inception (Leonardo DiCaprio), we’ve been watching/rewatching some of his movies.

Last week, we rewatched Dark Knight on DVD and were swept away by the Joker’s viciousness and his total lack of rules.

As Alfred explains to Batman:

Some men aren’t looking for anything logical, like money. They can’t be bought, bullied, reasoned or negotiated with.

Some men just wanna watch the world burn.

Who having watched Dark Knight can forget the image of the Joker in the nurse’s uniform and the weird gait looking back at the chaos he has wrought in the hospital and pressing a few buttons on the cell-phone brings it all down in a fiery explosion.

Burn baby, burn.

Ah, the stuff of legend.

Insomnia – Sleepless in Alaska
Yesterday, we got a chance to see Nolan’s 2002 film Insomnia (Al Pacino, Hilary Swank and Robin Williams), a movie we hadn’t seen before.

And what a delightful treat Insomnia turned out to be.

Sure, Insomnia doesn’t have the gee whiz narrative tricks of Memento but it amply makes up for its conventional treatment with a gripping story, a fine setting in Port Alberni, British Columbia (standing in for the Alaskan town of Nightmute) and the nonpareil Al Pacino.

And the ever-present tension.

Two Los Angeles cops, the legendary Will Dormer (Al Pacino) and his younger colleague Hap Eckhart (Martin Donavan) arrive in Nightmute, Alaska to assist in the investigation of a 17-year old girl’s brutal murder.

Both cops are already tense and under considerable pressure since they are under investigation back home by their fellow officers for planting evidence in a different case.

There’s also tension between the two cops with Hap making it clear to Will that he intends to cut a deal with the investigators.

Plus the tension of investigating the horrifying murder.

As Will and Hap, along with the local cops, get close to nabbing the murderer, the killer escapes but tragedy strikes when one of the cops is killed in the chase amidst thick fog in the area.

Deeply disturbed by the cop’s death and haunted by it, unable to sleep because of daylight even during the night and the looming threat of prosecution hanging over his head in the LAPD internal investigation, Will’s condition slowly deteriorates.

Compounding the tension, the killer starts calling Will, taunting him.

Al Pacino renders a brilliant performance of the tense, insomniac cop, almost losing his mind.

But he doesn’t although the sleep-deprived Will begins to see things that aren’t there and hear noises when there aren’t any.

Will plots but the killer forces the issue.

You see, we’re dealing with a smart killer here (Robin Williams), who’s got a few aces of his own.

No, it ain’t easy to bring him to justice.

Multiple twists helps to maintain the tension and enhance the drama in a beautiful setting.

Robin William and Hilary Swank do a decent job but Insomnia is Al Pacino’s film simply because he has a bigger, central role.

Kudos to Nolan for keeping up the tension and for the unpredictable elements that add to the allure of the film.

All in all, Insomnia is another feather in Nolan’s cap and most definitely worth watching.

Strongly recommended.

Related Stories:
Inception Review – The Emperor Has No Clothes

Inception Soundtrack – Good but ain’t Great

19 Responses to "Christopher Nolan’s Insomnia Review – Delightful"

  1. vjcool   July 14, 2010 at 2:58 am

    something quirky odd and full of life

    Presenting ‘Sita sings the Blues’… Responds:

    Watched it for a few minutes. Maybe, we’ll watch it in full later

  2. shadowfax_arbit   July 14, 2010 at 4:08 am

    Hmmm. Waiting for Inception to hit the screens here.

    Have you seen Nolan’s ‘Following’? Classic thriller! Responds:

    What a coincidence! We were planning on seeing it today. It’s on Netflix Instant play. So not a problem.

    • shadowfax_arbit   July 14, 2010 at 11:37 pm

      Is it over? How was the movie? Responds:

      Which one?

      Following?…haven’t started yet. Listening to Inception soundtrack right now.

      Will start Following in about 45-minutes.

      Very decent flick, particularly for a first movie (Black & White).

      • முனிAndy   July 29, 2010 at 11:55 pm

        Watched Following.. it was alright. From a 6000$ budget movie in 1999 to
        $160 million budget in 11 years.. giant strides.

        Interestingly DiCaprio is named “Cobb” in Inception.. probably a salute to “Following”‘s antagonist? One difference is DiCaprio is the biggest star now, but the other Cobb only has “Following” in his resume Responds:

        1. You write: but the other Cobb only has “Following” in his resume

        If it were one of those Indian-wood movies, only Cobb would be remembered.

        For the most part, India is an actor/star dominated industry. Even if it’s a lesser known actor/star, the star is usually the star of the show.

        We’d wager a million $$ that if you held a poll 80% of respondents wouldn’t know the director of Dev D but would immediately ejaculate Abhay Deol’s name.

        2. From what we remember reading about it (Wiki??), it took about a year to make Following and mostly used natural lighting (likely because they had no money).

  3. முனிAndy   July 14, 2010 at 11:04 am

    one gushing SI reader ejaculated about Memento
    he practices tantra most of the time – retention of precious fluids. Responds:

    So,is gravity an illusion? 😉

  4. முனிAndy   July 14, 2010 at 11:36 am

    Got to watch “Gosford Park”.. it beat out Memento in two screenplay categories. Unfortunately it is not on instant play.. not going to waste(?) a rental on this… The Sherlock Holmes Disc has been sitting idle for the past 3 weeks 🙁

    I couldn’t make any sense out of the Gravity article.. flew way over my head. Responds:

    1. Ditto here too on the gravity article. But in our defense we read it just once.

    Not to worry. It’s not making sense to full-time physicists too. 😉

    2. Heard of Gosford Park director Robert Altman but doubt we’ve seen any of his films.

    Seems to have made a habit of winning awards.

  5. 1012900   July 14, 2010 at 11:41 am

    Finally watched Memento today. No wonder lots of people ejaculate(to borrow ur lingo) about it.

    What a movie. I’m planning to re-watch Insomnia. Don’t remember much of it. Responds:

    We might rewatch Memento, or at least bits of it….now on Instant Play.

    Getting Dharmatma today (Feroz Khan, Hema Malini, Rekha, Premnath). A big hit in its day.

    Was Dharmatma the first Bollywood take on Godfather?

    • 1012900   July 14, 2010 at 12:06 pm

      Well, according to wiki, “It is the first attempt in India to localise The Godfather”.

      I’ve never heard of Dharmatma till now. Btw, please do try to watch The Great Escape. Responds:

      1. Our Tamil girl Hema Malini looks like a million bucks in Dharmatma in the song Kya Khoob Lagti Ho. Filmed in Afghanistan.

      Another fine song from the movie – Tere Chehre Mein Woh Jaadu.

      2. Will watch Great Escape.

    • sganeshkumar1989   July 17, 2010 at 10:11 am

      Hey,you’ll not find Dharmatma impressive.
      But Hema Malini,was lovely! Responds:

      You write: you’ll not find Dharmatma impressive.

      We’ll see.

      • sganeshkumar1989   July 30, 2010 at 9:54 am

        I was right after-all! 😉 Responds:

        Yes indeed you were.

  6. rakeshbaba   July 14, 2010 at 12:35 pm

    you’ve seen the dark kinght now,then what’s your answer to the cracking dialogue of that movie “this is what when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object”. Responds:

    Nice one but you missed one word – happens.

    The above sentence comes toward the end of the film.

    We might buy the DVD when Borders has their next 40% off sale on any item.

  7. rakeshbaba   July 14, 2010 at 1:09 pm

    early reviews of “inception” saying that this movie is very good and nolans direction is good thats ok but in most of the reviews they are indirectly criticising avatar by talking about 3d,avatar is a rare gem,visually special,but why they compare with master nolans movies? Responds:

    You write: early reviews of “inception”….in most of the reviews they are indirectly criticising Avatar by talking about 3d,Avatar is a rare gem,visually special,but why they compare with master nolans movies?

    Because the reviewers have to fill space. 😉

    • rakeshbaba   July 14, 2010 at 2:26 pm

      nice reply Responds:


      Listening to Inception music. Just purchased the CD.

  8. rakeshbaba   July 15, 2010 at 12:02 pm,29307,2003807,00.html? Responds:


  9. iamsumu   July 15, 2010 at 9:55 pm

    Trashing a poor bloke who gushed on Memento is unfair. You make it seem like he’s an employee of BP.
    However I would agree with him that Memento is a better film than Insomnia for 2 reasons. Cast of Memento while less heralded did a fabulous job (Guy Pearce, Joe Pantoliano,Carrie Anne Moss) vs. the more heralded Oscar winners (Pacino, Swank..).
    Second Memento is an original screenplay while Insomnia is a remake of the Scandinavian movie starring Stellan Skarsgård. Check it out when you’ve a chance. Responds:

    1. Yes, we were aware that Insomnia was a remake of the Scandinavian film. No, we haven’t seen the original. Maybe, one of these days.

    2. If you are suggesting that Insomnia had the advantage of A-list stars, may we remind you sans modesty that the graveyard of Hollywood flops is littered with tombstones for films that featured top draws. Some of those failures even featured Al Pacino.

    3. We’re tempted to argue that the ‘Original Screenplay’ you speak of vis-a-vis Memento is more a matter of ‘Original Technique.’

    Wait, the technique was not even original because it was a carryover from Nolan’s first film Following (which we watched this morning and found pretty impressive for a debut).

    All that said, Memento is an interesting movie that drew attention for its novel story-telling technique.
    Insomnia, au contraire, had to labor under conventional methods.

  10. racer44   July 20, 2010 at 10:47 am

    Insomnia is a great movie. I caught it on TV some time back and really enjoyed it.

    Robin Williams made a very “hateable” villain(in a good way).

    Pacino was ruddy brilliant as the sleepless cop with the haggard, haunted look about him while Swank was alright.

    Don’t know why films with conventional stories which are well-told never seem to linger in people’s minds. Responds:

    1. Insomnia hasn’t done badly, either with the critics or at the box office.

    Insomnia has a 92% rating on RT vs 85% for Inception.

    2. On the box office front too, Insomnia hasn’t fared badly.

    Insomnia was done on a budget of $46m and did $114m. Source: Wiki

    Of course, with the advent of Facebook, Twitter, blogs, YouTube et al the opportunities for promotion/creating buzz are greater now than in 2002.

  11. 1012900   July 23, 2010 at 9:33 am

    OMG, Inception’s rating sure has gone down. That’s bad. Responds:


  12. 1012900   July 23, 2010 at 4:01 pm

    I meant the RT rating. The negative reviews are getting higher. There are chances that the rating might drop further.

    Previously it had a rating of 94% in RT i guess. Responds:

    We doubt it’ll do that well at the box office too.

  13. முனிAndy   July 24, 2010 at 5:39 am

    Given a choice, i’d go to Farewell too.. but I have not been given a choice.

    Difference? Maybe Yes, Maybe No. 🙁
    why sad.. sorry, if that caused any inconvenience.. won’t use it again.. :p Responds:

    1. Not a definite ‘come what may, we will’ promise’ but we’ll try and watch both.

    BTW, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo has already come to Instant Play but if you haven’t read the books you may not feel the same pleasure. These are some of the quirks of movie-watching.

    2. Regarding you-know-what, there’s been so much attack on this blog that we’d be rendered defenseless if you-know-what.

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