Al Pacino (The Devil’s Advocate)
Robin Williams (One Hour Photo)
Hilary Swank (The Reaping)
Maura Tierney (Liar Liar)
Martin Donovan (Legends of Tomorrow)
Nicky Katt (School of Rock)
Paul Dooley (The Player)
Crystal Lowe (Final Destination 3)
Jay Brazeau (Bates Motel)
Katharine Isabelle (Ginger Snaps)
Chris Gauthier (Watchmen)
Ian Tracey (Man of Steel)
Crystal Lowe (Final Destination 3)
Jonathan Jackson (Terminator: TSCC)
Emily Perkins (Ginger Snaps)
In the small fishing town of Nightmute, Alaska, 17-year-old Kay Connell (Crystal Lowe) is found murdered. LAPD detectives Will Dormer (Al Pacino) and Hap Eckhart (Martin Donovan) are sent to assist the local police with their investigation, at the request of police chief Nyback (Paul Dooley), an old colleague of Will’s. Also, an intense Internal Affairs investigation in Los Angeles is about to put Dormer under the microscope. Eckhart reveals that Internal Affairs has offered him an immunity deal in exchange for his testimony regarding one of Dormer’s past cases. Eckhart says that he has no choice but to accept the deal, to Dormer’s frustration.
Dormer comes up with a plan to lure the murderer back to the scene of the crime. The attempt fails, however, and the suspect flees into the fog. The police chase, and the suspect shoots one through the leg. Dormer soon fires at a figure in the fog. On his way to the fallen figure, he picks up a .38 pistol the suspect has dropped. He then discovers that he has shot Eckhart. As he dies, Eckhart accuses Dormer of murdering him. Because of Eckhart’s pending testimony against Dormer, Dormer knows that Internal Affairs will never believe the shooting was an accident. He tells his colleagues Eckhart was shot by the suspect. He doesn’t mention he has the .38 pistol. Ellie Burr (Hilary Swank), a young police officer, is put in charge of the investigation of Eckhart’s shooting. Police find the bullet that sliced the first officer’s leg, a .38 caliber. That night, Dormer walks to an alley and fires the .38 pistol into an animal carcass. He retrieves the bullet and cleans it, then visits the morgue. The staffer hands him the bagged bullet retrieved from Eckhart’s body. She is unfamiliar with its type. He leaves and switches the bullet with one from the .38.
Over the next few days, Dormer is plagued by insomnia, brought on by his guilt over killing Eckhart and further exacerbated by the perpetual daylight. He then starts receiving anonymous phone calls from the suspect, who claims to have witnessed Dormer kill his partner. After looking through her belongings, the police learn that Kay was a fan of a local crime writer named Walter Finch (Robin Williams). Dormer looks up his address and breaks into his apartment. Finch soon comes home, realizes the police have arrived, and evades Dormer after a chase.
Dormer returns to Finch’s apartment. While there, he plants the .38 to frame Finch. Finch later contacts him and arranges a meeting on a ferry. Finch wants help in shifting suspicion to Kay’s abusive boyfriend Randy Stetz (Jonathan Jackson) and will stay silent about Dormer’s role in the Eckhart shooting in return. Dormer gives advice on handling police questioning. After Finch leaves Dormer on the ferry, he shows the detective a tape recorder he used to record the conversation.
Finch calls Dormer and tells him that Kay’s death was “an accident” — he beat her to death in a fit of rage after she rejected his advances. The next day, Finch gives false testimony at the police station. When Finch claims Randy had a gun, Dormer realizes Finch has discovered his plant, and has hidden it at Randy’s home. He races to Randy’s house to find the gun before other officers, but is unsuccessful, and Randy is arrested. Finch offers to give Burr letters indicating that Randy abused Kay, and asks her to come and collect evidence from his summer home the next day.
Burr finds a 9mm shell casing at the scene, which conflicts with the bullet type found in Eckhart’s body. She reads old case files from investigations Dormer was involved in and learns he has carried a 9mm, suspecting he has been lying about who shot Eckhart. Dormer confides in the hotel owner, Rachel Clement (Maura Tierney) about the Internal Affairs investigation: He fabricated evidence to help convict a pedophile he was certain was guilty of murdering a child.
Dormer searches Finch’s apartment for an address for his lake house, and realizes Finch intends to kill Burr after finding Kay’s letters in the apartment. As Burr and Finch move through his house, Finch knocks Burr unconscious. Dormer reaches the cabin, but is too disoriented from lack of sleep to fight off Finch. Burr revives and saves Dormer, while Finch escapes. Burr reveals she knows Dormer shot Eckhart. He admits it, but says he is no longer certain if it was an accident. From his shed, Finch shoots at them, and Burr returns fire, allowing Dormer to sneak around to Finch’s location. Finch and Dormer shoot each other, killing Finch and fatally wounding Dormer. Burr rushes to Dormer’s aid and comforts him by affirming that Eckhart’s shooting was accidental, then moves to throw away the shell casing to preserve Dormer’s secret. Before he dies, he stops Burr, telling her not to lose her way.With three Oscar winners in the cast Nolan had some serious quality to direct, that Pacino, Williams and Swank deliver excellence is high praise for the British director. Pacino actually gives one of his finest late career performances, utterly compelling as Dormer, his haggard face tells of a thousand sorrows, his sleep deprived gait befits a man staring into the abyss. Wally Pfister’s photography is on the money, the blend of snow whites and green tinges sparkle from the vistas and the soft brown hues inside the hotel provide the rare moments of tranquillity available to Will Dormer. Across the board Insomnia is a cracker of a movie, a film that goes into the murky depths of the genre to reveal one of the best movies of 2002.