Directed By: Christopher Nolan

Starring: Al Pacino, Robin Williams, Hilary Swank, Maura Tierney, Martin Donovan, Nicky Katt, and Paul Dooley

"A good cop can't sleep because he's missing a piece of the puzzle. And a bad cop can't sleep because his conscience won't let him.”
-Detective Ellie Burr (Hilary Swank)

Though one of the most prolific actors of all time who can do just about anything on the big screen, Al Pacino specializes in playing two types of characters — cops and crooks.  While we think of him mostly as Michael Corleone, Sonny Wortzik, and Tony Montana, he has played his fair share of cops as well.  Just look to his iconic performance as Lieutenant Vincent Hanna in Heat or more recently his role as Will Dormer in Christopher Nolan's Insomnia.  As Dormer, Pacino gives another phenomenal performance as a conflicted cop who loses sight of whether he is good or bad because of some serious sleep deprivation.

Anxious to get away from an Internal Affairs probe into his department, Los Angeles police detective Will Dormer (Pacino) and his partner Hap Eckhart (Martin Donovan) go to Nightmute, Alaska to consult on a homicide investigation.  The deceased is 17 year-old girl Kay Connell (Crystal Lowe).  With the permission of Nightmute Police Chief Nyback (Paul Dooley), Dormer and Eckhart have full access to all the evidence in the case.  The hotshot L.A. detectives get down to business and start ripping apart Kay's life to figure out who this killer is.  There's just one distraction.  Eckhart reveals that he recently accepted an immunity deal from Internal Affairs in exchange for his testimony on one of Dormer's old cases.

During the investigation, the cops stumble upon Kay's backpack.  Under Dormer's instruction, they take all potential evidence out and stuff it with new books.   They then plant the backpack back where they found it and notify the local media that they're looking for Kay's backpack.  This trap lures killer Walter Finch (Robin Williams) out of hiding to grab the bag, but things don't go quite the way Dormer intended.  Finch escapes through the tunnels into the foggy woods where he shoots a cop in the leg.  Dormer and the other cops chase him.  During this chaotic scuffle, Dormer aims and shoots at whom he believes to be Finch.  After the shot is fired, he learns that he's killed his partner Eckhart.  Though Dormer no longer needs to worry about Internal Affairs, he does need to worry about Finch who witnessed the murder and local detective Ellie Burr (Swank) who is handling Echkart’s case.  Because of the stress from Kay's murder investigation and his secret guilt for killing his partner, Dormer does not get much shuteye, and the lines of right and wrong begin to blur for this sleep-deprived veteran cop.

Insomnia is one of Christopher Nolan's earliest films and a fine addition to the crime genre.  With an incredibly talented cast led by screen legend Al Pacino, Nolan crafts one tense, nail-biting thriller.  An English-language remake of the Norwegian movie of the same name, Insomnia is a film that really delves into the details of both Kay Connell's murder and the moral and psychological underpinnings of Pacino's Will Dormer in the wake of murdering his partner.  With an awesome supporting cast, great visuals, and plenty of well-crafted thrills, this poignant crime thriller hits the mark.

As Will Dormer, Al Pacino is in rare form.  This is honestly his best performance since Michael Mann's Big Tobacco thriller The Insider in 1999.  Known for portraying conflicted characters, Pacino is perfect to play this troubled insomniac for whom the notions of right and wrong are no longer black and white.  With a dark, passionate performance, the acting veteran manages to give us a colorful character whose conscience tortures him to no end.  Those dark owl eyes of his alone speak volumes as Pacino's Dormer delves further into the perils of sleep deprivation.  Pacino's outstanding performance ultimately is front and center in this film and carries it to the next level.

The supporting cast really does a great job as well.  Robin Williams gives us the deliciously evil psycho killer and author Walter Finch.  He may be cold and calculating in his bizarre "partnership" with Pacino's Dormer, but Williams gives us an authentic, relatable murderer.  Williams makes Finch like the average Joe first and your typical serial killer second.  For her part as newbie detective Ellie Burr, Hilary Swank does an impressive job.  She perhaps gives us the one character with genuine, unbridled compassion.  Swank gives us an intuitive and understanding character.  Lastly, it's good to see veteran character actor Paul Dooley (Sixteen Candles) as Chief Nyback.  He really plays the old rural cop to perfection.

The devil's in the details for Christopher Nolan in his direction of Insomnia.  In both creating a thrilling crime saga and bringing the struggles of sleep deprivation to fruition on the big screen, Nolan meticulously crafts every nuance of his film.  Whether introducing the bizarre details of Kay Connell's murder, creating a creepy ambiance in the woods with a whole lot of fog, or demonstrating the dangers of walking on logs, Nolan sets the scene perfectly for suspense.  Beyond this, he explores the perils of sleep deprivation and makes the film as dizzying as Pacino's Dormer must be after going for so many days without any shuteye.  Creating a world where the sun never sets and Dormer's flashbacks are rampant is ideal to amplify these perils.

All in all, Insomnia is one chilling thriller centered by an outstanding performance from Al Pacino.  This early Christopher Nolan flick gets a 0.03% rating.  Have some wine coolers with this one.