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  • Widescreen 2.35:1
  • 16:9 Enhanced
  • Dual Layer ( )
  • English: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
  • French: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
    English, French, Dutch, English - Hearing Impaired, Danish, Swedish, Norwegian, Finnish
  • Additional footage
  • Audio commentary - Multiple
  • 3 Featurette - Making of, In the Fog, Eyes Wide Open
  • Photo gallery - 29 pics
  • Animated menus
  • Interviews - Nolan V Pacino

Insomnia (2002)

Buena Vista/Buena Vista . R4 . COLOR . 114 mins . M15+ . PAL


I once had insomnia for five days on end. It was, without doubt, the lowest point of my life and to make matters worse if I did fall asleep, even for a moment or two, I had a recurring dream that was even worse than being awake.

So I understood this film totally.

"Get any sleep, detective?"

Insomnia begins with renowned detective Will Dormer (Al Pacino) and his partner entering a small Alaskan town, currently amidst five months of straight sunlight. Theyíre there to help a local investigation of a girlís brutal and confusing murder. As they begin their investigation they find a backpack belonging to the girl and set up a trap to catch the killer. Unfortunately, he arrives and the snare is bungled leaving Dormerís partner dead. Wracked with confusion, Dormer continues the investigation while local cop Hilary Swank investigates Dormerís partnerís death. However, it now appears a suspect has been unearthed in reclusive thriller writer Walter Finch (Robin Williams) and he knows more about Dormer than he should. Now the two begin a pitched mind game of cat and mouse as the pieces begin falling into place - even as Dormer decays under his ongoing insomnia from the relentless daylight.

Brilliantly written and executed, Insomnia has been delivered on a train slowly building pace until the very end when it comes head-on at breakneck speed. Pacino and Williams are magnificent in their roles as the two major adversaries and work well off each other, using their unique abilities to pull the story this way and that. Hilary Swank is inspired as the eager young acolyte to Dormerís fame and provides yet another awesome performance from her catalogue of very different roles. The three working in conjunction have created a believable and terse atmosphere in which nothing is as it seems, while the supporting cast, particularly the greatly understated and underused Maura Tierney, fill the picture in perfectly.

Dormerís insomnia is the entire theme running through the film, although we are left to remind ourselves of this perhaps a little more than we should. There are some amazing (and accurate) scenes in which Dormer is suffering under the weight of his sleeplessness and these have been delivered with crystal clarity and cleverness, turning it into fear rather than sending us, the viewers, to sleep. Itís a solid production with a well filled script and dynamic performances and more than a little stain of creepiness about it, particularly in the well shot and choreographed fog scenes.


Buena Vista, that stalwart of excellent transfers to DVD, has done it again with another beautiful delivery here. Brought to us with the full cinema aspect ratio of 2.35:1 plus 16:9 enhancement, the vastness of this frozen stronghold of glaciers and ice has been rendered incredibly well. Every wide shot of the magnificent scenery is almost as good as being there, it looks so good. There are also some scenes of Dormerís memories which have been edited beautifully and clearly and rate a special mention for their excellence as well.

Colours are well saturated and even throughout and blacks are true to life. Shadow detail is rich and flesh tones are perfect. There are occasional instances of aliasing, but nothing huge nor really worth mentioning. Finally, having left cinemas so recently, there are no film artefacts that are obvious, making the overall picture quality not much short of perfect.


A lot of being an insomniac involves the amplification of simple, tiny, everyday sounds. This has been handled magnificently in the police station during one scene where Dormer is suffering. Each tiny noise is realistic, clear and loud and comes from everywhere around us. Awesome stuff. Plus there are others theyíve handled just as beautifully. The chase sequence across the logs floating on the river is also just spectacular sound-wise.

Music is nice and effectively creepy, helping add to the tension and strain of Dormerís crumbling sanity as the effects of sleep deprivation spiral around him. Lyrical in scenes of the beautiful landscape and getting toward eerie at other times, this is the perfect accompaniment to the visuals. As to dialogue, this has been well spoken and well recorded, particularly when catching Dormerís sleepy mumbles accurately. All is understood easily and even distant voices on the telephone have been delivered well. The whole audio landscape is nicely balanced out and even without anything dominating anything else (except where deliberate) and sounds fantastic.


What at first looks like a little becomes a lot. Under the first headline of Production Diaries you might expect lots of text, but this actually harbours four individual featurettes. Each is pretty good, though the first is the lamest, with an interview between Chris Nolan (the director) and Al Pacino (the actor). Itís basically a bit of fun for the boys as they amiably discuss the film. It runs too long at 17:11 and is entitled 180ļ.

Second up is Day For Night, a short making of at 4:3 for 7:57. Numbers three and four are the same footage with two different commentaries. This is called Into the Fog, with both commentaries being interesting and individually valid insights from differing perspectives of crew members.

Eyes Wide Open is a short featurette discussing insomnia with professional sleep researchers and actual sufferers. They analyse Pacinoís part and discuss how real his reactions are in truth. Being that this was made for the film, as it features footage, it also features spoilers - so beware. This is in 1.78:1 with 16:9 enhancement and runs for 7:30. Very, very interesting stuff.

There next comes an additional scene (with optional commentary) which I really thought added to the film, but they cut it out anyway. It runs for 3:04 and is nice running at 2.35:1 without enhancement. Cast commentaries follow, but these are just annoying. Theyíve been trimmed from scenes of the film and feature varying cast and crew discussing what was going on, but are all over the place and non-sequential. How annoying!

The directorís commentary has all the scenes placed in the order they were shot (Day 1: Scene 6a, Day 2 Scenes 19, 37, 57 etc.) and manages to contain the whole film but for six lousy minutes. Why didnít they just make the commentary for the film in order? The novelty of the day-by-day thing runs out real fast, I can tell you. However, Nolan does have some interesting stuff to impart, so those who care enough might not care about the eclectic presentation.

Finally, there's a photo gallery under the header From the Evidence Room. It runs as a short film of chapters for 2:48 and has 29 pics in colour and B+W from stills and promos, including the poster art.

A nice bunch of stuff with some hidden gems among them that truly add weight to the value of this disc.


When three Oscar winners are the three main players in a well written and well crafted film of this nature, you know youíre in for a treat. I was really looking forward to watching and reviewing this DVD and was thoroughly impressed from start to finish. A great film, great actors and an impressive young director (Memento) have created a dynamic product and the Buena Vista transfer with an exceptional collection of extras make this one a bit of a must have.

Sleep tight!

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      And I quote...
    "This one has it all; three great actors, a great director, a dream transfer and a blanket of extras. A dream, really."
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