insomnia in a nutshell is about two city cops being sent out to alaska to investigate a mysterious murder. al pacino is the more veteran investigator, and they've been temporarily exiled all the way up north - where this time of the year the sun never sets and it's 24/7 daylight - because of some internal affairs heat back home out to bag bad cops. pacino accidently shoots his partner dead during a bad guy chase in the fog. this is the same partner who earlier told pacino he was going to cut a deal with internal affairs and offer up pacino on the cutting block. lines of morality becomes ambiguous as pacino covers up the accidental shooting, and later discovers who the killer is, only to become entangled in a mutualistic blackmail scheme.
the title of the movie refers to the fact that pacino can't fall asleep the whole time he's in alaska. partly because it's still daylight outside, but also because he's conflicted by his sense of duty to solve the crime and his feelings of guilt over what happened to his partner. the film reeks in moodiness. as the movie progresses, as pacino slowly starts to lose it the more days he goes without sleep, you sort of go through what pacino is going through, that feeling starts to soak in.
the environment itself is like an uncredited character in the film. the isolation, the fact that it's perpetually daylight, the barren landscapes, out in the middle of nowhere - it's refreshing to see a crime thriller played out in such a unique setting.
al pacino is such a great actor. when he's on the big screen, it's such a joy to watch a master at his craft, like a painter at his easel, like a carpenter with a house. i could just sit back and let him take me for a ride, no worries. robin williams isn't so bad either. i'm not a big fan of his comedy work, but when robin williams gets serious, he's very good. i think what's more amazing, if you've ever seen in him interviews, is that fact that he's a lunatic in real life, so to see him so serious, you know it's a stretch for him and he pulls it off so well! oh, and then there's hilary swank. i'll be honest, before she won her academy, i would've never given her a second look, but now everyone knows her as the academy award winning actress and everything she does, even if it's a little role, carries so much weight now. i was afraid she'd be relegated to the damsel in distress role, especially towards the end of the movie, but i'm very happy to see that's not the case.
this is a smart movie, and it's definitely an acting showcase. if you come to the film thinking that it's going to be an action film, you're going to be disappointed. this is an extremely well-done crime thriller, the plot twists and turns, and every step of the way leaves you guessing, and you can't wait to see what happens next. absolutely a must see, there's a reason why this movie has so much buzz.