Directed by Christopher Nolan, starring Al Pacino, Robin Williams, Hillary Swank and Martin Donovan.
After the murder of a teenage girl, LA cop Will Dormer (Pacino) and partner Eckhart (Donovan) are sent to the midnight sun territory of Nightmute, Alaska to crack the case. Greeting them on arrival up north is Ellie Burr (Swank), a young detective completely in awe of Dormer's career in homicide and the opportunity to work alongside a legend.
But Dormer's desire to catch the killer is tempered by the growing crisis he's left behind. Facing an investigation into his past cases, Dormer's room to manoeuvre is shrinking by the day. Worst of all, he doesn't know if Eckhart will stick to the agreed version of events.
That problem presents an extreme solution however, when a sting to catch the killer goes disastrously wrong. With their cover blown, the police are forced to begin a chase through a forest during which the target is allowed to escape and, crucially, Eckhart is shot dead.
His partner's death may give Dormer the out he needs, but with the combination of guilt and sleepless 'nights', he begins to fall apart. And when the investigation leads him to local novelist Walter Finch (Williams), Dormer must decide just how far he'll go to uphold the law – or save his own skin.
If Nolan's first two films, 'Following' and the Oscar-nominated 'Memento', made him an arthouse favourite then 'Insomina' brings him straight into multiplex land. But don't think of that as a letdown, because from the great performances through to the hypnotic quality of the landscape, it's the best thriller you'll see this year.
It's a classic example of a director bringing his own vision to the mainstream, but whereas David Fincher tried and ultimately failed with 'Panic Room', Nolan comes through the process with reputation enhanced. That's all the more remarkable a feat given that 'Insomnia' is a reworking of the Norwegian film of the same name. Yet while most Hollywood makeovers look like the work of jobbing directors and never better the original, Nolan's style, pacing and depth mean that his film lives as a standalone entity.
'Glengarry Glenross', 'Donnie Brasco' and 'The Insider' are, arguably, Pacino's best roles over the last 10 years and 'Insomnia' can be added to that honour role. Pallid, distant and falling apart physically and mentally, he plays a man not so much examining the elements of the crime in front of him but taking stock of his own wrong turns. The combination of no sleep and endless daylight means there's nowhere to hide from himself and in Williams he has the perfect tormentor. It's fascinating to watch the power struggle between them: one who's lived the life, the other who, until now, has only written about it. Nolan never rushes their encounters or the film as a whole and the result means that 'Insomnia' never bypasses character while you're clawing the seat.
With no big villains or dark shadows at his disposal, Nolan has exposed the lack of imagination and perfectly fitting pieces of Hollywood. He may resolve Dormer's dilemmas with a standard showdown but he still manages to make the ending as downbeat as it is uplifting and far above the shocks we're usually offered by major studios.
There's absolutely no fear of you falling asleep watching this one.