Robin Williams Dark Crime Thriller On Streaming Keeps You Guessing Until The End

By Chris Snellgrove | Published

Thanks to Oppenheimer sweeping the Oscars, director Christopher Nolan is hotter than an atomic bomb right now. Fans are understandably eager to see what he does next, but what if we told you he directed a killer film decades ago that stars screen legend Robin Williams acting anything but funny? The film in question is Insomnia, and it’s one that you can stream right now on Paramount+.



What is Insomnia about, though? The strange plot involves two Alaskan detectives investigating a murder, but in their attempt to collar the criminal, one of the detectives shoots the wrong man. The rest of the film follows his titular insomnia over the guilt of that accidental shooting, but that guilt threatens to turn to fear and panic when he begins getting phone calls from the killer who got away…a man who witnessed the shooting and could potentially destroy the detective’s career with his testimony.

The Cast

Of course, one of the reasons we loved this film so much is that Christopher Nolan assembled an amazing cast. Robin Williams acts against type as the killer whose bizarre cat-and-mouse games with the detective are even scarier than his casual brutality.

Meanwhile, Al Pacino plays the detective tormented by the accidental shooting, and Hillary Swank plays a wet-behind-the-ears detective who deeply admires Pacino’s character. For those keeping track at home, Insomnia is a movie headlined by three different Academy Award winners who, between them all, have earned a staggering 15 Oscars.

Not Robin Williams’ Typical Role

Christopher Nolan is always very careful about his casting choices, and having legendary funnyman Robin Williams play a depraved villain was quite intentional. Regarding that casting decision, the director said, “I think [audiences] will come away feeling like they have seen a ‘new’ Robin Williams…Seeing Robin Williams doing something they would have never imagined that he would or could do.” Nolan was, of course, right on the money: there is something eerily captivating about seeing someone who always makes you laugh do the most depraved and disgusting acts onscreen.

A Hit In Christopher Nolan’s Early Career

Insomnia was made with a budget of $46 million and earned $113.8 million at the box office, making it a modest hit compared to later films such as Inception and Oppenheimer (especially because this was before Nolan was so well known).

It was also an instant hit with critics: right now, the movie has a critical score of 92 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, meaning that it is well past “certified fresh.” Generally speaking, critics praised the killer acting on the part of Al Pacino and Robin Williams, ultimately deeming Insomnia “a smart and riveting psychological drama.”

Stream Insomnia On Paramount+

If this sounds like a movie worth losing some sleep over, we’ve got good news: you can actually stream Insomnia on Paramount+ right now. This movie is also an interesting time capsule for Christopher Nolan fans because it was the last one he made before the success of Batman Begins turned him into a household name, and it’s also the only one of Nolan’s films he didn’t write.

The quality and success of this early film prove that it’s not who Nolan is underneath but rather what he does that defines him as one of Hollywood’s greatest living directors.