Swedish homicide detective Jonas Engstrom (Skarsgård) is sent to northern Norway to investigate the brutal murder of a teenage girl. However, during a botched entrapment operation, he mistakenly shoots his partner Eric Vik (Ousdal) and pins the blame on the suspect. Suffering from sleep deprivation and tormented by the death of his colleague, Jonas is forced into an alliance with the killer, middle-aged writer Jon Holt (Floberg).
First-timer Erik Skjoldbjaerg conjures up an atmosphere of claustrophobic unease, using a deliberately muted production design, careful camerawork and an eerie electronic score (courtesy of Biosphere), all heightened by the 24-hour-a-day Arctic sunlight.
Amid the strong performances and complex characterisations, Skarsgård excels as the ruthless investigator, whose impassive features conceal a private nightmare. A genuinely un-nerving psychological thriller, Insomnia is one of the year’s best foreign-language releases.