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Pick of the Week:
Insomnia DVD
"Insomnia" DVD
Reviewed by Ivana Redwine
Guide Rating -

Tagline: "Don't close your eyes."

Length: 118 minutes
MPAA Rating: R for language, some violence and brief nudity

Al Pacino stars in the psychological thriller "Insomnia," a remake of a much-admired 1997 Norwegian-language film. The English-language update is tautly directed by Christopher Nolan ("Memento"), and in addition to Pacino's outstanding performance in the leading role, there are strong supporting performances by Hilary Swank and Robin Williams. The "Insomnia" DVD comes with a generous selection of bonus materials.

As the movie opens, a small plane delivers two veteran Los Angeles police detectives to the remote town of Nightmute, Alaska. The LAPD detectives are Will Dormer (Pacino) and his partner, who have come to help solve a brutal murder. They are met by an eager young local policewoman named Ellie Burr (Swank), and she takes them to the Nightmute police station. But we soon learn that Dormer and his partner are under investigation back in L.A. by Internal Affairs.

Dormer quickly takes charge of the Alaska murder investigation, and we see that his skills are formidable. But things go awry when he springs a trap on the murderer: the suspect gets away and his LAPD partner is killed. The police must now investigate the death of Dormer's partner as well as the original murder.

Eventually Dormer comes to suspect a crime novelist named Walter Finch (Williams) of having committed the original murder and sets out to build a case against him. But Dormer has things to hide, and this enables Finch to lure him into a dangerous cat-and-mouse game. Meanwhile, Dormer has trouble sleeping in Nightmute, partly because the summer nights are so short there, but mostly because he must wrestle with his own inner demons.

I thought that "Insomnia" was an extremely well-made film. However, the one thing that disappointed me was the script, which I felt resorted to using genre clichés at times. Also, the movie could have benefited from being a few minutes shorter.

I was impressed by the excellent performances, skillful direction, and evocative cinematography in "Insomnia." But after seeing Christopher Nolan's "Memento," I was surprised at how straightforward "Insomnia" is by comparison. "Insomnia" is a big-budget film that has artistic merit, but it feels like a Hollywood movie rather than an indie feature.

The "Insomnia" DVD comes with a lot of special features, which I have listed below. The commentary by director Christopher Nolan is scene-specific and runs for the length of the movie, but it is unusual as DVD commentaries go in that it is given in the order in which the scenes were shot. There are also separate scene-specific commentaries by Hilary Swank, the screenwriter, the cinematographer, the production designer, and the film editor, but these commentaries last only a few minutes each. Also on the DVD is a deleted scene showing an interesting conversation between Al Pacino's character and Maura Tierney's character that can be viewed either with or without Nolan's commentary.

Selected Special Features on the DVD:

• Commentary by Director Christopher Nolan
• Scene Commentary by Hilary Swank
• Scene Commentary by Screenwriter Hillary Seitz
• Scene Commentary by Director of Photography Wally Pfister
• Scene Commentary by Production Designer Nathan Crowley
• Scene Commentary by Editor Dody Dorn
• Additional Scene (Optionally with Director's Commentary)
• 180°: A Conversation with Christopher Nolan and Al Pacino
• Day for Night: The Making of Insomnia
• In the Fog: Cinematography and Production Design
• Eyes Wide Open: The Insomniac's World
• From the Evidence Room: Stills Gallery
• Theatrical Trailer
• Cast & Crew
• DVD-ROM Features

• Anamorphic Widescreen (2.35:1)
• English Dialogue
• French Dialogue (Dubbed in Quebec)
• English Subtitles
• French Subtitles
• Spanish Subtitles

• DVD Release Date: October 10, 2002

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