Christopher Nolan grabbed the world's attention with 2001's noir-narrative trickster Memento. Insomnia, based on a 1997 Norwegian film, is a nimble addition to Nolan's oeuvre. Veteran L.A. detective (Al Pacino), haunted by personal demons, travels to Alaska to help a young cop (Hilary Swank) investigate the murder of a local girl. Robin Williams's shady character—in a powerful non-comic mode—is the primary suspect. Pacino's Will has problems sleeping, and the 22-hour northern sun isn't helping any.
Insomnia sinks its hooks into the characters' psychology, with Pacino and Williams giving excellent, finely tuned performances. The stylized cuts and editing from Memento are largely absent, but Nolan has applied just as much craft and attention into the making of this film. Indeed, by relying less on structural trickery and more on a keenly tensioned cat-and-mouse game under the strain of constant sun, he has created a psychological thriller of real substance.