'Insomnia' is presented in widescreen 2.35:1 with 1080p VC-1 coding.
Initially I was pleased with how this transfer looked. It is very solid and filmatic, with no traces of nasty video artefacts or post production tampering. The prevalent fog and mist are rendered to perfection, which is usually the sign of good transfer that has not been “touched up” in an attempt to make last minute improvements. The image is detailed and expansive, such the panoramic snowy backdrops of Alaska. Rivets can clearly be seen on the well rendered steel of the plane's hull, as it takes Pacino and his partner to their destination. The same can be said for clothing detail, which has got plenty of texture.
The majority of the scenes have a pleasing depth, especially those featuring the outdoor vistas and other long shots. I was also pleased to note that there were a couple of scenes where the print lifted from the screen, giving an almost three dimensional effect (these were few and far between though). Facial close-ups expose Pacino's leathery skin, wrinkled eyes and grey flecked hair, as well as bruises and other contusions on the murder victim's body. There is a very fine grain structure but this always appears organic and non-obtrusive.
The colour palette is somewhat restricted to cool blues and darker tones but this suits the overall nature of the presentation. The exception is William's piercing blue eyes, which really cut through. The contrast ratio is very strong indeed, as exemplified by the deep black of Pacino's leather jacket and the sequences in the tunnel under Finch's cabin. The white balance can at times dazzle, especially when we move from darker surrounding to the perpetual daylight of snow topped Nightmure.
I did notice one or two scenes which appeared a little soft in comparison to the others. These were infrequent but none the less served to taint an otherwise impressive transfer. I can't say for sure if their almost out of focus nature was intentional but I don't believe that they are and so this will be taken into consideration for the final score. Overall though, the presentation is crystal clear and very solid for the duration, earning an eight.
'Insomnia' comes packed with a 5.1 dts-HD Master Audio surround track (48/24).
Stereo separation is superb, as exemplified during the opening scene as the seaplane weaves from left to right sound field before crashing into the water. There were also a couple of scenes where birds could be heard above the display and rotating around the front channels. There are a couple of instances of terrifically well rendered gunfire, which has an accompanying crack that can startle on occasion. Vocals are one of the more prevalent facets of this track and all aspects, from Pacino's enraged bellow to William's soft telephone voice, are always crystal clear and never difficult to follow.
The surround channels are not overly active but do have a couple of moments to shine. As Dormer begins to become irritated by noise (as he grows overly tired), there is a clever accompanying increase in surround activity. During the log chase scene, massive trunks can be heard thundering around the listening position and as Dormer goes under, the viewer is immersed also. The subwoofer is a little bit underpowered for the majority but it does have a couple of scenes where it shines. The log scene features some terrific woofer intervention and is a highlight for the bass department, as are the moments when Dormer's heartbeat can be heard (and felt), increasing in intensity as he nears his prize or comes under fire.
The score is one of the most consistently active portions of the track and sits perfectly in the mix for the duration. It adds suspense and excitement with its original compositions. While it is not overly memorable, it gets the job done perfectly with perfectly balanced bass and treble.
The front channels do seem to dominate for the majority but nonetheless they manage, through some excellent steerage and surround intervention, to create a very expansive and active sound stage.
The extras portion on this disc, although well fleshed out, is lifted wholesale from the DVD version which was released some years ago. While I shouldn't complain, as there are some very worthwhile additional supplements included, I would have personally liked to have seen a little more high definition content.
Commentaries - That being said, there are a couple of juicy commentary tracks included. The first features Nolan and it's a fantastic track. Not only do we get to hear the director's inspired approach to making this movie, we also get the treat of having each scene labelled in the order in which it was actually shot. It's amazing to see the vision, in the state that it existed only in Nolan's head, unfold. He speaks about the challenges which this shoot (and the order in which it was shot) provided for him and dissects every scene in minute detail. Almost every aspect of the movie is covered here and more; simply a must listen. The second commentary features the cast and crew; Hilary Swank, Hillary Seitz (Writer), Wally Pfister (Director of Photography, and what an unfortunate name!!), Nathan Crowley (Production Designer) and Dody Dorn (Editor) all participate in their respective selectable portions. There's also a “play all” option, which I would recommend. All of the participants provide lot of insight to the feature presentation and discuss their respective roles and give their opinions of the finished product and working with Nolan. Again, well worth a listen.
“Day for Night” (SD 8mins) - This feature takes a look behind the scenes during the making of 'Insomnia'. Nolan and the cast and crew feature throughout and discuss all aspects of the production. They also discuss each other's characters and the performance of the actors. The tone and style of the movie is also discussed. There's some vaguely interesting content here and this relatively short feature is worth a curtsy watch.
180°: A Conversation with Nolan and Pacino (SD 17mins) - In this extra, Nolan and Pacino discuss the movie candidly. They hold no airs or graces and speak truthfully and thoughtfully. They break down the characters and the plot and expand on many aspects of the production. Some of the topics discussed are very interesting indeed (such as Pacino's past experiences) and this is most certainly worth a watch.
In the Fog (SD 12mins) - In this additional supplement, Nathan Crowley (Production Designer) and Wally Pfister (Cinematographer), give their thoughts (via selectable commentary tracks) on the scene in the fog during which Pacino chases Williams. They've both got some interesting points but it's a shame that there was only one scene to share between them.
Eyes Wide Open (SD 7mins) - This interesting feature brings home the reality of those who actually suffer from insomnia and the effect that this debilitating condition can have on everyday life. The doctors who specialise in treating this condition also feature.
Deleted Scene (SD 3mins) - This deleted scene is not worth mentioning as it doesn't really add to the feature presentation in any way but at least it comes with an optional director's commentary.
Stills Gallery (SD) - A pretty standard collection of stills from the movie.
Trailer - Here were have, for your viewing pleasure, a single SD trailer for 'Eyes Wide Shut'.
'Insomnia' was released in 2002 and was directed by Christopher Nolan. The plot follows a LAPD detective (Dormer), who is under fire from Internal Affairs, as he travels to Alaska to investigate the murder of a young teenager. With the geographical location of the small town meaning that it's perpetually daytime, Dormer diligently fights through his mounting insomnia as he pursues the killer. With a cast comprising Al Pacino, Robin Williams and Hillary Wank, Nolan's excellent choices certainly deliver the goods. Nolan himself holds the whole piece together admirably but the slightly contrived plot, which doesn't really contain any high points, lets the side down. That being said, this is most certainly not a bad movie and builds intrigue and excitement for the duration.
The transfer is very solid for the duration and has a wonderfully cinematic feel to it. The surround track contains a couple of high points and although it never really leaps to the forefront to impress, it gets the job done. The extras portion is well fleshed out and contains a number of worthwhile features. This is a disc ticks all the right boxes and comes recommended to all fans of a good thriller.
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