Couldn’t sleep at all last night

That Insomnia is one of 2002’s best films, containing an outstanding performance from Al Pacino, makes it a must-have for any DVD collection.

What Director Christopher Nolan does with his commentary track makes the disc an invaluable document on how to make a movie.

The movie is a brilliant depiction of the effects of sleep deprivation, as well as a tense crime drama which pits Pacino’s weary cop against a mild-mannered murderer played by Robin Williams. The supporting cast includes Hilary Swank as a rookie cop who worships Pacino’s character, Will Dormer, a lawman who goes to investigate a murder in Nightmute, Alaska, where the sun never sets.

SPECIAL FEATURES: I didn’t read the box before I popped this one into my player, so when I clicked on Nolan’s commentary track, I was much surprised. Rather than droning along, as some do, to the film as it unfolds in its theatrical order, Nolan puts a big twist in things. His commentary is presented in the order of the shooting sequence, so we see the scenes in the order that they were shot rather than the order of the final product.

This technique allows someone who’s interested in the making of the film to see how its director assembled it. For the casual film viewer, this could provide a headache. For a film freak like myself, it is bliss.

It’s intriguing to see how Nolan mapped out his shooting schedule, which came in at slightly more than 50 days, and watching the progression of Pacino’s performance. Nolan gave Pacino strictly physical work for the first few days, rather than hitting any heavy dialogue.

In addition to Nolan’s remarkable commentary, the disc features another commentary track that includes Hilary Swank, cinematographer Wally Pfister and other members of the production team. Their commentary is scene specific, and the DVD gives you the option of playing only the portions each person spoke about, rather that having to run through the entire film.

The rest of the features are fairly good. Eyes Wide Open: The Insomniac’s World, features interviews with sleep experts and insomniacs concerning the effects of sleep deprivation. A Conversation with Christopher Nolan and Al Pacino gets the director and actor together for an afternoon tea as they discuss filmmaking experiences. Most enlightening is Pacino’s revelation that director Sidney Lumet made him rehearse Serpico in its entirety on every shooting day.

The movie and the special DVD features are both very good. Get this disc into your player, and listen to one of the industry’s smartest directors as he tells you the tricks of his trade.

Movie: A

Features: B.