Balls-out "60 Minutes" producer Lowell Bergman sniffs a story when a former research biologist for Brown & Williamson, Jeff Wigand, won't talk to him. When the company leans hard on Wigand to honor a confidentiality agreement, he gets his back up. Trusting Bergman and despite a crumbling marriage, he goes on camera for a Mike Wallace interview and risks arrest for contempt of court. Westinghouse is negotiating to buy CBS, so CBS attorneys advise CBS News to shelve the interview and avoid a lawsuit. "60 Minutes" and CBS News bosses cave, Wigand is hung out to dry, Bergman is compromised, and the CEOs of Big Tobacco may get away with perjury. Will the truth come out? Written by
I'll make this simple for you with short attention spans: Al Pacino's best performance of the 90s. Russell Crowe's best work on par with LA Confidential (if not better) and a gripping shot by Christopher Plummer as 60 Minutes anchor Mike Wallace.
For those who can handle it, read on:
Jeffrey Wigand (Russell Crowe) has been fired from his job. He has to break the news to his wife (Diane Venora, who I believe should go on to be one of the best actresses of all time) that their beautiful home, swank cars and health care plan (their oldest daughter is athsmatic) are about to go down the tubes. He's been given a severance package but that's about to fall apart as well.
Enter Lowell Bergman (Pacino), producer for CBS Television News' bastion of journalistic integrity, 60 Minutes. Bergman's doing a report on fires that were started by careless smokers and has been given a report so huge and full of technical jargon he can't make heads or tales of it. Through a friend he is put in touch with Wigand in the hopes of finding a translator. Wigand thinks Lowell is coming after him because of what he knows about his former employers, a major tobacco company.
It is at this moment that director Michael Mann institutes a trick, the likes of which hasn't been seen since All The President's Men. The two exchange a cat-and-mouse conversation via fax. Bergman finally calls Wigand's bluff by daring him to meet him the next day. He does.
What does Wigand know? Well, its all over the papers these days about how the tobacco industry lied about manipulating the leaves to make them more habit forming. We have Wigand to thank for that. But that isn't where the story ends. This is a two-fold tale; on one hand you have the self-destruction of a man who put everything on the line just so he could do the right thing. On the other, you have a television producer who so believes in the integrity of himself, the network, and his show that he is willing to risk everything he has to fight for the protection of his source. I haven't seen this much commitment outside of Woodward and Berstein's staunch protection of "Deep Throat."
The trump card of this film though comes in the form of Christopher Plummer playing one of the most visible news figures of the past 25 years, Mike Wallace. Wallace teeters on the edge of looking like a foul-mouthed, celebrity hungry, media hound who's only thought is about ratings. However, before its over, he evokes the "integrity of Edward R. Murrow," a line that gave me chills and made me pray for an Oscar Nomination.
Director Michael Mann is known chiefly for his Action/Thrillers. This 155 minute film is slow paced but gripping for ever second it is on the screen. A lot of people have complained over the past 7-8 years about Pacino's "staccato" performances, suddenly shouting at the slightest provocation. This film returns him to his prime form, a style he hasn't walked in since Dog Day Afternoon, ...And Justice For All and Serpico.
Anybody got a light?
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