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Insomnia (1998)



Average Rating: 7.9/10
Reviews Counted: 34
Fresh: 33 | Rotten: 1

Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.

Average Rating: 8.6/10
Critic Reviews: 5
Fresh: 5 | Rotten: 0

Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.


Average Rating: 3.6/5
User Ratings: 8,784


Movie Info

Norwegian filmmaker Erik Skjoldbjaerg makes his directorial debut with the psychological police drama Insomnia. Swedish homicide detective Jonas Engström (Stellan Skarsgård) and his partner, Erik Vik (Sverre Anker Ousdal), arrive in a small Northern Norwegian town to help the local police investigate the murder of a teenage girl. When Jonas finds the girl's backpack, he sets a trap for the killer near a remote shed. While waiting to make an ambush in the morning fog, Jonas accidentally shoots … More

Art House & International , Mystery & Suspense
Directed By:
Written By:
Nikolaj Frobenius
In Theaters:
Jul 27, 1999



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Critic Reviews for Insomnia

All Critics (42) | Top Critics (8) | Fresh (33) | Rotten (1) | DVD (12)

It becomes clear the title of the film could just as well be 'The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call - Tromsø.'

Full Review… | August 3, 2014
Movie Metropolis

fascinated by the conundrums of human psychology and moral frailty, which is why the film is centered on a protagonist who is generally dislikable as a person, yet is inherently compelling as a human subject.

Full Review… | July 28, 2014
Q Network Film Desk

Mais cínico que sua refilmagem, o filme cria menos tensão por não levar o espectador a simpatizar com seu protagonista. Em contrapartida, é mais enxuto, disciplinado e conduz sua trama com mais segurança.

July 17, 2006
Cinema em Cena

A cold and stark amoral thriller.

November 7, 2003
IGN Movies

Superior thriller that was improved upon when remade in English.

January 16, 2003
Mountain Xpress (Asheville, NC)

In Insomnia the murderer and his investigator possess a human capacity for mischaracterizing traits; this is a realistic scenario in which temptation houses a narrow threshold.

Full Review… | December 16, 2002
Not Coming to a Theater Near You

Haunting rather than jolting; an ice pick to the heart rather than a pump-you-up roller-coaster ride.

Full Review… | June 18, 2002
Film Journal International

It's centered by an accomplished performance by Stellan Skarsgård.

Full Review… | May 24, 2002

Stellan Skarsgard delivers a masterful performance.

Full Review… | January 1, 2000
Internet Reviews

It may have an unlikable hero and a cryptic plot, but the Norwegian film Insomnia works - if for no other reason than the fact that it gets the atmosphere right.

Full Review… | January 1, 2000
Deseret News, Salt Lake City

Skarsgard's chilling performance exploits his character's flaws and the mysterious Norwegian atmosphere gives this film an appealing film noir flavor.

Full Review… | January 1, 2000
Ozus' World Movie Reviews

Audience Reviews for Insomnia

It is hard to believe that this is Erik Skjoldbjaerg's first film. It seems like a pro job to me. Very rarely do you get thrillers crafted this well. Almost everything is perfect. The script is as taut as possible. I saw no holes, anyhow. The plot is believable and you will never see the best twists coming. Even if you are the type who sits there and constantly guesses what's coming next during thrillers, I doubt you could. The film does a lot to avoid plot cliches. And if I'm wrong about that, if I was just blinded by other aspects of the film, it won't really matter. The characters are very well written. Especially the main character, played by Stellan Skarsgard. He is certainly one of the best actors working today and this may just be his greatest performance yet. He owns the film. The cinematography is effective. It's bleak and cold. The camera moves assuredly, and it's always where it should be. The music is perfectly subdued. The direction in general is simply amazing. The mise-en-scene is marvelous. I love the settings of the film, the threatening, rocky terrain, the broken and rusty buildings, everything. This is a must-see film. One of the best films of the 1990s.5 Stars 3-1014

Bruce Bruce

Super Reviewer

A paranoid and claustrophobic thriller with many memorable moments. Skarsgard is great in the lead role.

Graham Jones
Graham Jones

Super Reviewer

An interesting (if not a bit frustrating) film, about how one bad decision made in clouded state of panic / shock can quickly develope into a full-blown shit storm.

I think that perhaps a little more development of the main character (Skarsgard) early on, would have made for a little better understanding as to why such poor judgement was used. I still don't fully understand "why", at least nothing that makes a whole lot of sense.

I think the antagonist (Bjorn Floberg) summed it up best towards the end of the film when he asks "Why didn't you just tell the truth? A few months suspension and everything would be back to normal." Which is what I was thinking through the entire film.

Robert C

Super Reviewer

As is always the case when American producers decide to remake a relatively unknown foreign film, there are a lot of people that say this Norwegian film is better than the American one. In actual fact, there's not a lot in it; but this film deserves more credit for having the original idea, and it has to be said that the idea is a good one as this film carries off it's central theme and plot in style, and the two blend excellently to create a compelling and intriguing psychological portrait of both a criminal and the effects of not getting enough sleep. The film carries off an excellent reversal in the common psychological theme, in that this time; it's the daylight that causes all the horrors. Insomnia takes place in Norway where, for one half of the year it's light and the other half it's dark. It's currently light, and detective Jonas Engström has been assigned to a case involving a murdered girl. The plot thickens when the detective accidentally shoots his partner whilst chasing the killer, and then proceeds to cover up the murder he has committed while the search for the girl's murderer continues.

The American remake adheres to the plot of the original rather closely, and that's a shame for someone like me who has seen the remake as I always knew what was going to happen next. But even so, while the plot didn't contain any surprises for me; watching the detective's descent into insanity owing to his insomnia makes for a great watch, and the as the plotting is expertly handled by director Erik Skjoldbjærg, watching it play out is always a pleasure. Stellan Skarsgård takes the lead role, and while he may not have the star power of Al Pacino, he manages to deliver a darker and all the more believable performance as the put-upon policeman at the centre of the tale. In fact, all the ensemble cast comes together well and the film feels very much like an A-class production at all times. Insomnia features a number of memorable scenes that help to ensure that the audience will remember it beyond just its central ideas; and overall, it's clear that the writing team have succeeded in making a film that transcends its cat and mouse formula.

Cassandra Maples

Super Reviewer

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