Chilling Crime Thriller On Streaming Is A Tense Game Of Cat And Mouse

By Robert Scucci | Published


Christopher Nolan has recently gone on record stating that he’d be interested in working on a horror movie if the right opportunity presented itself, and we can’t help but want to revisit 2002’s Insomnia as a primer. Though not a horror film itself, Insomnia is an incredibly bleak psychological thriller that demonstrates how darkness can be found in a perpetual state of daylight if you look hard enough. What’s more, Christopher Nolan believes that Insomnia is one of his most underrated films, which is high praise when you consider the fact that this is the only film he’s directed that he didn’t write himself. 

Nolan’s Start In The Big Leagues


Insomnia is a remake of the 1997 Erik Skjoldbjærg-directed Norwegian film of the same name, and marks Christopher Nolan’s first studio effort with big names like Al Pacino, Robin Williams, and Hilary Swank attached to it. Though the remake is stylistically very similar to the original film, it has its own legacy because it’s not a carbon-copy, but rather a reinterpretation of the source material that makes it a solid standalone film in its own right. 

The Premise

Focusing primarily on the concept of guilt and paranoia, Insomnia is a police procedural that follows Al Pacino’s Will Dormer, a troubled detective investigating a murder in the remote fishing town of Nightmute, Alaska. Tensions run high between Dormer and his partner, Hap Eckhart (Martin Donovan), because Eckhart reveals that he’s going to tell internal affairs that Dormer used fabricated evidence on a past investigation. Eckhart’s testimony will ruin Dormer’s reputation, and also has the potential to undermine his past detective work, which will result in a number of old cases being reopened. 

Friendly Fire

While in pursuit of the killer, Dormer’s vision is impaired by fog, and he mistakenly shoots Eckhart to death. Knowing that internal affairs will think his actions were intentional because of Eckhart’s upcoming testimony, Dormer alters the crime scene in a way that suggests the killer was the culprit who fired the fatal round. 

Things Get Complicated


Dormer’s problems continue to snowball in Insomnia, as Detective Ellie Burr (Hilary Swank) is tasked with investigating the shooting. Meanwhile, murder suspect Walter Finch (Robin Williams) tries to level the playing field by blackmailing Dormer because he witnessed the incident while evading the officers. Dormer’s sense of reality slowly unwinds as he is consumed with guilt, and the perpetual state of daylight in Nightmute prevents him from sleeping.

Insomnia Impressed Critics And Fans

Insomnia was an immediate critical and commercial success, earning over $113 million at the box office against its production budget of $46 million. Christopher Nolan was praised by Erik Skjoldbjærg for helming such a well crafted remake. For Pacino’s portrayal of a world-weary detective paired with Robin Williams’ uncharacteristic yet uncanny ability to take on the role of the bad guy, Insomnia resides in the top tier of Rotten Tomatoes rankings with a 92 percent critical score. 

Watch It Now

Watching Insomnia’s many ethical and existential layers peel back makes for an incredibly uncomfortable viewing experience. As Dormer’s perception of time and reality deteriorate, you feel a profound sense of second-hand dread, which is an extraordinary feat of filmmaking. The next time you find yourself having a sleepless night, you might as well watch Insomnia on Paramount+ to keep you company.