The Insider (5-Nov-1999)|
Director: Michael Mann
Writers: Michael Mann; Eric Roth
From article: The Man Who Knew Too Much by Marie Brenner
Keywords: Drama, Corporate Crime
Review by Striker5 (posted on 17-Aug-2007)
In The Insider Michael Mann steers away from overt violence and criminality and into the more subtle world of media responsibility and the abuse of corporate power.
The story follows the misfortunes of real-life whistle-blower Jeffrey Wigand (Russel Crowe) and his life-altering battle with his former employer Phillip Morris.
I had always liked Russell Crowe, but his performance as Wigand cemented him as an outstanding and versatile actor. His Wigand is a pudgy, greying bureaucrat - a bright, if unassuming Everyman. But as the film progresses we see the rage that boils under the surface and realistically explodes at different points in the plot.
Wigand upset my expectations as a character. I was expecting some "save the children" handwringing and anti-capitalist pontifying. Quite the opposite. Crowe's character is very much a corporate creature who has flourished through his support of Big Tobacco. Wigand's whistle-blowing is spurred when his employer (Michael Gambon) makes veiled threats regarding his confidentiality agreement. Insulted, threatened, and maligned Wigand's campaign is driven by revenge. This intensifies when corporate America goes on the offensive and Wigand's life begins to unravel.
Crowe's Wigand is Mann's most multi-layered and complex protagonist. Sympathetic, but realistically flawed, Jeffrey is a fully humanized and three dimensional character. Al Pacino is also very good as producer Lowell Bergman who struggles with the media industry and Wigand to get the story to the public. Christopher Plummer is notable as a larger-than-life Mike Wallace.
The movie is extemely timely in that it presents threats that are understated and mundane, but no less dangerous. The story of Jeffrey Wigand is a cautionary tail of what can happen when a Big Corporation gets you in its sights and brings all its money and power to bear. Equally relevant is the callow sissyness of the media copping out on an important story to protect their wallets and job security.
The Insider is a film that could have easily been boring or preachy but succeeds brilliantly and delivers a crucial message about our society.
Review by Walter Frith (posted on 9-Jun-2007)
Based on the Vanity
Fair article 'The Man Who Knew Too Much' by Marie Brenner, director
Michael Mann's 'The Insider' is not so much a film which is
anti-tobacco as it is pro-truth. Mann's ability to diversify himself as
a film maker continues to impress me. From his little known 'Thief' in
1981, to his Oscar winning period piece effort 'The Last of the
Mohicans' in 1992 to his soulful examination of crime with 1995's
'Heat', Mann always finds a laid back style mixed with a textured style
of great visuals and an under lying theme of violence, or at least a
reference to it (always tastefully portrayed) is found in his work.
Mann teams up with the Oscar winning writer of 'Forrest Gump', Eric
Roth to bring a broadened approach to a very serious issue which may be
the most serious legal entanglement ever to engulf the United States.
I'm talking, of course, about the law suits that many states have filed
against the tobacco industry, citing them for selling a knowingly
dangerous and addictive product which has cost many health care
programs billions of dollars. What 'The Insider' does is it makes you
think about the ethics involved in pursuing the truth, no matter what
the cost. Based on a true story, 'The Insider' is about a former
tobacco company executive and a producer from t.v.'s '60 Minutes' who
collaborate to tell millions the truth about the way cigarettes are
allegedly tampered with to increase a person's desire for them. Dr.
Jeffrey Wigand (Russell Crowe) is the conscience-stricken former
tobacco executive who wants to blow the whistle on his former employer
and teams up with Lowell Bergman (Al Pacino), a top producer for '60
Minutes' who works closely with legendary anchor Mike Wallace
(Christopher Plummer). As the story unfolds, we see that Wigand signed
a document of confidentiality, stating that he would never reveal to
outside sources the details of his job. He eventually balks at this and
feels that he has a greater responsibility to the public. His life then
begins to fall apart. As he makes progress in bringing what he knows to
the public, he finds a bullet in his mailbox, an e-mail is sent to his
house threatening to kill him and every member of his family and his
wife leaves him. At least he is able to find work as a high school
teacher after being fired from his old job with big tobacco. What
really makes 'The Insider' work is the way it tries to tackle the
subject of media ethics. As it is based on a true story, there is a
detailed breakdown of the struggles, arguments and wrangling over what
content is suitable to air and what footage may land CBS' '60 Minutes'
in some serious hot water. Bergman produces the segment with Wallace as
the host, interviewing Wigand and making allegations against big
tobacco as the film becomes more and more absorbing. The film also does
something very clever. It never tries to match its two leading stars
against each other in an effort or given opportunity to upstage one
another. The first half of the film is primarily about Wigand's dilemma
and the second half tells the story of Bergman and Wallace and how they
are at odds during the whole story. Russell Crowe, who was born in New
Zealand, gave a brilliant and hard boiled performance as the tough cop
in 'L.A. Confidential' and mastered an American accent extremely well.
He makes good on that again with his portrayal of Wigand using a New
York accent which he nails down to perfection. Pacino, my all time
favourite actor, gives a straight forward performance as the veteran
producer who oozes decency. He cares about his sources and goes to bat
for them each and every time. At a running time of over two and a half
hours, Michael Mann uses every minute to properly tell his story of one
of this generations greatest injustices. There is a time during the
film where a lot is said about Jeffrey Wigand's flaws that perhaps
question, if not, damage, his credibility as a witness to his former
employer's dealings. Balance is the key with this film that strives not
only to inform but enlighten an audience in a conventional yet powerful
manner. An extraordinary combination and Oscar nominations for some may
be involved. Visit FILM FOLLOW-UP by Walter Frith
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