Al Pacino (left) and Russell Crowe.
Taken from the Internet
Drama. 2 hrs. 35 min
Rated: R for language
Starring: Al Pacino, Russell Crowe, Christopher Plummer
Directed by: Michael Mann
Spectator Rating: 10 out of 10
When the seven leaders of the tobacco industry testified before the US congress in 1994 that they believed cigarettes were not addictive, everyone knew they were blowing smoke. How this ridiculous lie was turned on its head is the premise for this year's best movie, The Insider.
While the movie is a must-see for anyone interested in media because it explores the combative relationship between corporate interests and independent journalism, it also poses a question anyone would struggle to answer: Would you sacrifice the well-being of your family to tell the media something you knew?
Thanks to the brilliantly-acted main characters Dr. Jeffrey Wigand (Russell Crowe) and Lowell Bergman (Al Pacino), the story keeps viewers riveted throughout its two hours and 35 minutes. Known for his tense action sequences, realistic gun battles and frantic car chase scenes, director Michael Mann (Heat and the TV series Miami Vice) uses extended silences and close-ups of the characters' strained faces instead of non-stop action. The tension is so unbearable at times that viewers almost wish for a car explosion just to release some steam.
Crowe (L.A. Confidential) plays Wigand convincingly without over-acting the role. For the first half of the film, the viewer sees Wigand struggle with the decision that will ultimately cost him his family and career. Fired from the Brown & Williamson tobacco company for protesting the firm's efforts to develop a more addictive cigarette, he is forced to sign a non-disclosure contract before he leaves. Although he badly wants to blow the whistle, breaking his oath of confidentiality means endangering the well-being of his family.
Enter Bergman, a producer for 60 Minutes, the highest rated TV news show in America. Bergman is an old-fashioned reporter who says what he thinks, goes to great lengths to get prominent sources, and is fiercely protective of his sources' rights. Though Bergman doesn't push Wigand to have an on-air interview with legendary TV reporter Mike Wallace (Christopher Plummer), he knows that the sheer magnitude of the story makes it a journalist's dream.
The only flaw in the movie is the main character's wives, who aren't given enough space to generate empathy from viewers. Wigand's wife comes off as a cold wench more concerned for her rich lifestyle than her husband's turmoil. And Bergman's wife just stares at her husband while offering lacklustre moral support..
But these characters don't detract from the film's brilliance. One leaves the theatre wanting to meet Wigand and shake his hand, to hang out with Bergman over beers. The billions of dollars US tobacco firms now pay in damages show that truth and justice sometimes do prevail. The Insider is a rousing tribute to this simple axiom.
20. Mar 2000 at 0:00 | Daniel J. Stoll