Well-made but grisly thriller is not for kids.
  • Review Date: October 30, 2006
  • Rated: R
  • Genre: Thriller
  • Release Year: 2002
  • Running Time: 118 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive role models

Smart, dedicated female detective.


Grisly dead body, characters killed, shooting, tension, peril.


Naked dead body.


Very strong language ("f--k" and "s--t").

Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Characters drink a lot.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this movie has brief but grisly violence, a nude corpse, some creepy sound effects, and some very strong language. There are tense scenes and characters are shot and killed. Characters drink and smoke.

What's the story?

Detective Dormer (Al Pacino) and his partner, Hap Eckhart (Martin Donovan), are LA cops on special assignment to investigate the brutal murder of a teen-age girl in tiny Nightmute, Alaska. Dormer, brought in for his expertise, meets eager young Nightmute detective Ellie Burr (Hilary Swank) who did a case study on one of the crimes he solved when she was in school. But Dormer and Eckhart may have been sent to Alaska to keep them out of the way of an Internal Affairs investigation. They are investigators and subjects of investigation at the same time. Dormer struggles being in Alaska looks at a time of year when it is light all night long. Images of light and darkness haunt him as he tries to escape the light so he can get some sleep and as he is forced to confront a darkness within himself that draws him both to killers and their eradication. It turns out that he and the killer will have a connection that, like the midnight sun, will keep him awake.

Is it any good?


Like his previous film Memento, director Christopher Nolan's thoughtful thriller has many dualities and counterpoints and an impaired main character. We cannot always trust what we see through Dormer's eyes, nor can Dormer. Nolan uses everything -- the huge frozen vistas, the disorientation of perpetual sunlight, the fog that surrounds their first glimpse of the killer, the names (Dormer is "to sleep" in French, Ellie Burr is a detective whose dedication is a constant irritant). Dormer's lack of sleep both deconstructs and constructs him. He enters a surreal state in which he is both more and less able to rely on his judgment.

Pacino, Swank, Donovan, and Maura Tierney as a sympathetic hotel proprietor are all first-rate. The movie's weakest point is Robin Williams in the under-written role of the killer.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the moral compromises Dormer makes and the ways in which people have to balance the ends and the means. What will Ellie do next? Why? Why is the town named "Nightmute?" What do you think about the girl who was killed?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:May 24, 2002
DVD release date:October 15, 2002
Cast:Al Pacino, Hilary Swank, Robin Williams
Director:Christopher Nolan
Studio:Warner Bros.
Run time:118 minutes
MPAA rating:R

This review of Insomnia was written by

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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What parents and kids say

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Adult Written byanonymous57 April 16, 2012

good movie

This movie is obviously not aimed at kids. not because it is a violent or sexual movie, but because it is fairly slow paced and has a complex plot which deals with issues that children would be unable to understand. The sexuality indicator is not correct, with the exception of a brief view of a naked corpse there is nothing in this area that you need worry about.
What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models
Too much violence
Too much swearing
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking
Adult Written byJosé Pedro July 25, 2011

Goog thriller

Good movie, good actors, good story. I liked it pretty much. It’s a thriller and deals with deaths and murders. It’s a little intense and a little violent, (in language too). The sexuality indicator is not correct; there are not references that justify that indicator, just a naked dead body in a glimpse. I recommend the movie.
What other families should know
Great role models
Too much violence
Too much swearing
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking
Teen, 14 years old Written bycheese-process March 12, 2011

maybe not MEANT for kids, but nothing bad

Insomnia made me almost fall asleep, but that's a good thing in this case. Al Pacino is such a great actor that when you watch the movie, you know exactly how he feels--tired but determined. The violence wasn't too bloody, just some shooting and the naked dead body was only a glimpse. The language was rough, but it's nothing you can't handle if you've seen worse movies. I don't understand why this got a "not for kids" rating. Those are reserved for gory or sexual movies only. Whoever gave this a "not for kids" rating apparently was too lazy to think about saying "iffy for 15" or whatever, (or maybe they just didn't get enough sleep! haha) and it's obviously not meant for kids, so they just labeled it "not for kids" instead of giving it a legit rating. Don't let the rating scare you, because it's misleading. I personally think anyone 14, maybe even 13 and older can handle this.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much swearing


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