Movie Review: The Insider

By Erik Petersen
Movie Magazine International
Directed by Michael Mann “The Insider” looks at the events leading up to the landmark ruling against the tobacco industry. The film’s focus is the controversial decision by “Sixty Minutes” to not air the damning interview of corporate whistle blower Doctor Jeff Wigand.

Russell Crowe portrays research scientist Doctor Jeff Wigand with a repressed anger that grows with each passing moment. His performance gives nothing away, we witness the efforts to slowly grind him down through a variety of a threats and cruelties. Mann’s frequent use of a hand held camera during the early sequences conveys the isolation and paranoia that permeates Crowe’s character. His transformation is slow and embittering as he and his family give up their plush home and sophisticated trappings. He struggles to keep himself and his family intact as the pressure mounts.

Christopher Plummer’s Mike Wallace is great. He’s more Mike Wallace than Mr. Wallace is. And I mean that as the sincerest compliment to Plummer’s performance. He’s a tough s.o.b. who doesn’t back down. He’s wonderful in an early scene as he stands toe to toe with an Islamic terrorist, taunting the armed bodyguards just for kicks. His journalistic integrity is unquestionable. Yet when he’s tested he responds with what is portrayed as naiveté of the first order.

Al Pacino is Lowell Bergman, the unrelenting producer who’s ethics are beyond reproach. He is the hero of the film. Pacino shows restraint, the kind of restraint that he can sometimes be sorely lacking as evidenced in roles in “Scent of a Woman” and “Heat.” Yet here Pacino gets it just about perfect as journalist driven to uncovering truths wherever he can find them. Late in the film Wallace asks Bergman if he’s still interested in a news story they discussed previously. Bergman responds, “Everything interests me.” This is who he is, a journalist committed to uncovering the truth.

“The Insider” is carefully orchestrated to push your buttons and it succeeds. While I’m no fan of cigarettes I’m not sure I like the message the tobacco ruling sends about personal responsibility. And in the films closing moments a paragraph of text reminds us that portions of the film have been fictionalized for dramatic purposes. Still the performances in this film are excellent, even if the hero’s and villains are painted a little too black and white. But these are minor points. If this film doesn’t send your adrenaline racing you better check for signs of life. I’m Erik Petersen for Movie Magazine.
More Information:
The Insider
USA - 1999