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I first wanted to see 'The Insider' because it professed to show the truth
behind the lies of the Tobacco Industry. My wife and I saw it and were
thoroughly impressed. In fact we've now seen it 5 times (I think, though I
may have lost count).
If you go to the movies to be entertained mindlessly, do NOT see this movie, you will bored. This movie is for people who like to think, and who like to receive superior presentation of thought provoking material. The Insider has all that.
The movie gets you thinking about mankind. The obvious problem with human nature is obvious in this movie. The Tobacco companies knowingly selling addictive product, whilst claiming it is not. And then almost, almost but not quite, getting away with ruining an individual's life, an individual who's conscience was pricked by what they had seen.
But then it moves into the CBS drama, where again the hopelessness of mankind in general shines through. The strength of two individuals though manages to win the day, which is what makes this true story so unusual.
I found that (contrary to those who complained of the movies length) every scene that Mann has given us has a reason. A good reason. From the opening scenes depicting an evil far from USA. To the hints as to why we didn't hear anything about the drama when it happened, because the OJ murder story and media frenzy drowned out what should be to us all a much more serious matter.
For me the crowning moment in the film was when Russell Crowe (as Wigand) was about to dig into a hamburger when behind him on TV a newscaster reported findings about him, bad (though unfounded) findings. Crowe put his knife and fork back down in a way that told us all that he had no more appetite, in fact all the will left in him had been violently thrust away, thrust away by the selfish interests of the Tobacco companies.
All in all this is a complete movie that deserved its 7 nominations and should have gotten some awards. The sound was great, as was the camera work. If you love an artistic movie, you will love this one. Crowe is thoroughly believable and has cemented himself as a first rate actor, capable of playing just about any part put his way. Pacino is very well cast, Plummer is a class act, and a host of supporting cast did themselves proud.
What we can't forget about this movie, for all its drama, and for the pointed view it gives us of the nature we bear, its a TRUE STORY. Thats what really makes it shocking. And only those driven to the ends of despair and loneliness such as Wigand and Bergmann were, can really truly realise another fact pointed out in the movie, in the end of it all, we are nothing anyway, so what does it all matter?
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?
The Insider is the only film I remember having seen where I walked out
of the theatre with a headache because of the intensity of the story.
Michael Mann is one of few directors who has such an in-depth
understanding of both the subject of his film and the nature of that
subject, that he is able to portray a realism that is nearly impossible
There is real skill displayed in the way in which the Insider weaves through the aspects of both Bergmann and Wigand's lives. Whereas a lesser director would have thrown the characters at each other in an artificial collision, Mann introduces each character as being average professionals each living in their own respective stable lives. It is only when their chance encounter creates a subtext that could consume them both does the real chemical reaction in the story take place.
Bringing life to these fantastically written characters are two of the most talented 'big-name' character actors of our time, Al Pacino and Russell Crowe. Surprisingly, it is Crowe that drives this film forward, and his portrayal of Wigand is spot-on perfect. His is an honest humanity, both a loving father and a flawed husband who never fully balances his life under the pressure of circumstance. Crowe nails the performance by not hamming-up the character, but rather by understating his personality. This works in that it is the character that is elevated while the actor disappears.
That is not to ignore the excellent work by the remainder of the cast. Pacino's performance is accented and accentuated beautifully by Christopher Plummer's portrayal of Mike Wallace. Most notably are several standout scenes mixing Pacino, Plummer, Philip Baker Hall and Stephen Tobolowsky that ground the underlying tensions of the film fantastically. And the juxtaposition between the cold, hard New York settings and the organic nature of Mississippi further press this film beyond standard non-fiction works.
Easily one of the best dramas of 1999, the Insider is a standout member of that elite club of great historical dramas such as All the President's Men that are few and far between. It is for that audience that appreciates skilled performances meeting skilled direction and restrained, mature writing.
I have been a huge Michael Mann fan for years, but I do have to admit that I
approached his latest film "The Insider" with just the teensiest bit of
trepidation...after all, Mann is the godfather of the thinking man's action
flick, and I've even heard it said that his action sequences are so integral
to his movie that they are practically another character in the film...with
which I completely agree. So I was wondering how a movie with no chase
sequence, no gunfights, basically no action whatsoever--well, how could that
possibly qualify as an authentic Michael Mann signature film?
Yes, the action, per se, is missing, but Mann still brings his signature directorial style to life with lots of wide shots, intense close ups, and indirect focus, all bathed in cool blue light and threaded together with an inventive soundtrack (including a reprise of a former track that was used so effectively in "HEAT"; sorry, I can't recall the title offhand).
And what the movie lacks in "action", Mann more than makes up for in high-wire tension. He pulls us into the drama of an ordinary man's life by portraying the myriad humiliations, both large and small, that assault Wigand from the moment he is fired from his job as an R&D VP for a major tobacco company. The detoriation of his life, from his finances to his marriage to his belief in himself, is explored with the sort of atmospheric detail that is Mann's trademark: the play of light or lack of it; the familiar sights and sounds of everyday life, from the patterns of rain on a windshield to the rush of wind through the trees; and camera work that ranges from tight, out-of-focus shots to sweeping panoramas of razor-sharp clarity...all of this creates an environment of realism that puts you into the film. You can't just observe Wigand's struggle; you experience it with him. My movie-watching partner observed as we left the theatre that he felt exhausted from the tension, as if he'd just been through the corporate wringer himself. I knew what he meant!
But atmosphere isn't all Mann delivers. Once again, this genius director has placed an unexpected actor in the lead role of his film, with amazing results. Before Daniel Day Lewis was "Nathaniel Poe" in "The Last of The Mohicans", no one would have believed he could pull off a major hunk-o-rama role...well, guess what? He ended up defining the hero of the adventure/romance genre! In "The Insider", Mann has opted for the opposite effect, casting young, potential hunk material Russell Crowe as an older, slightly-pot-bellied father of two. Wigand doesn't look like anyone's hero, and perhaps that's actually the message of the movie: an ordinary man--a nobody, really--caught up in extraordinary circumstances. And Crowe delivers...in a major way! Personally, I can't remember an acting performance that mesmerized me to this extent...unless it was the last time I watched Crowe, in "L.A. Confidential". He evokes his character in this movie with the apparent ease of a magician doing card tricks: the illusion is complete and appears to be effortless. Even with silver, receding hair and twenty extra pounds which, we are shown, is not the result of costume padding, but Crowe's own amplified flesh, he is imminently watchable... almost hypnotically so.
There are, even as I post this, whispers and rumors about this movie being an Oscar contender. Best director, best actor, best supporting actor. Again, I can only nod my head in complete and total agreement. Russell Crowe will blow you away, and Al Pacino gives his best performance in years.
This film is quiet, intense, and ultimately, extremely moving. I literally burst into tears twice, the way you do when you've recieved bad news or seen something dreadful, so complete was my empathy for the character of Jeffrey Wigand . The anger, helplessness, and puzzled confusion at being punished for telling the truth felt all too familiar to me.
In summary, I was not at all disappointed in Mann's direction of this film. Even without the phenomenal action sequences he's known for, this film had the same visceral effect on me that I experienced when I saw Manhunter, Last of the Mohicans, and HEAT. I'm a born-again fan!
Not always, but usually a Michael Mann-directed film means good things
for movie buffs, and this is no exception.
Tremendous acting highlights this movie about a behind-the-scenes look at a "60 Minutes" story of a man who blows the whistle on a tobacco company. Al Pacino, as the TV show producer "Lowell Bergman," Russell Crowe as the whistle-blower and tobacco scientist "Dr. Jeffrey Wiegand," and Christopher Plummer as "Mike Wallace" all are riveting in their performances. They are intense characters, as are many of the supporting characters in this involving film.
There is little action in here but a ton of tension in the first hour of this long (158 min.) film. The story held my interest even when the tension left, thanks to the acting, the great cinematography, involving music score....well, just about everything. It's simply a well-done movie, similar to Mann's "Heat," except without the violence.
The only negative was the obvious Liberal bias, but that's not surprising being it's about "60 Minutes." I wasn't surprised when Ken Starr got a cheap shot, for example. This film bias could have been a lot more blatant so I'm not complaining. Obviously, they went a overboard in their stand against the tobacco industry, repeating the same damaging scenes over and over. However, I appreciated they didn't shrink from pointing out how the network was covering its own behind even though it was hurting its most successful program.
Photographer Dante Spinelli did an incredible job making this look fantastic despite the fact that there was no great scenery or exotic sets. As mentioned, this is just great film-making. What else can you say?
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
THE INSIDER / (1999) **** (out of
"The Insider" prospers in almost every way, shape, and form possible. The production is a masterpiece of visual style, moving performances, and penetrating dialogue. The story is captivating, even at 157 minutes. There is more than enough unexpected plot twists to keep our attention throughout-and at a consistent pace. Many movies will have moments of inspiration and intrigue, but not "The Insider." This movie is one long intriguing moment, a moment that is never boring or lacking. It is also believable and entirely convincing. There is a realistic look into the behavior of journalists and their desire for information. It is so intelligent about revealing the most important information little at a time, always at the perfect second.
Russell Crowe's character is the heart of the film, one of the most active protagonists seen in a movie all year. He plays Jeffrey Wigand, an ex-employee at Brown & Williamson, one of the nations largest cigarette manufacturers. Its chairman (Michael Gambon) has fired Wigand for questioning some of their potentially harmful research tactics and business routines-but not before blackmailing him into signing a strict confidentiality agreement that threatens his much needed severance package currently providing for his wife and their two young girls. When the company even further jeopardizes his existence, he blows his fuse and prepares to release information on the indecisive industry of B&W.
He gets his opportunity when Lowell Bergman (Al Pacino), an ambitious and experienced reporter from the CBS news program "60 Minutes," receives a package regarding product safety studies at another tobacco company. Bergman contacts Wigand, aspiring towards hiring him as a transitory consultant for a potential "60 Minutes" show. Bergman senses some vital information withheld in the knowledge of Wigand, therefore further investigates what he is making the executives at B&W so concerned.
The film makes many unexpected turns; in the second half, it smartly switches focus from Wigand to Bergman. After losing his privacy, secrets, reputation, and family, Wigand revealing startling facts and starts a new career teaching chemistry. But Bergman faces further complications. His TV Network refuses to air the segment because they could be sued big time for helping break Wigand's confidentiality agreement.
"You pay me to go get guys like Wigand, to draw him out. To get him to trust us, to get him to go on television. I do. I deliver him. He sits. He talks. He violates his own f*****g confidentiality agreement. And he's only the key witness in the biggest public health reform issue, maybe the biggest, most-expensive corporate-malfeasance case in U.S. history. And Jeffrey Wigand, who's out on a limb, does he go on television and tell the truth? Yes. Is it newsworthy? Yes. Are we gonna air it? Of course not. Why? Because he's not telling the truth? No. Because he is telling the truth. That's why we're not going to air it. And the more truth he tells, the worse it gets," explains Bergman.
The dialogue is one of the brightest, most thought-provoking material in the film. All of the little quirks in typical conversation are captured, the stuttering, the spontaneous explicit declaratives, and the sharp remarks that add a scathing zest to the character's personalities (Agent: Do you have a history of emotional problems, Mr. Wigand? Wigand: Yes. Yes, I do. I get extremely emotional when *******s put bullets in my mailbox!).
The movie's dramatic premise is so clear, so precise, so uncommonly absorbing. It expresses the true stress and nature of the traumatic emotions of the characters. There is also an excellent introduction of both Wigand and Bergman, giving them depth and human dimension. Despite a few members of my cinema discussion group disagree, I extensively enjoyed the piercing middle-eastern soundtrack consisting of awkward beats and fitting tones.
Al Pacino is cautious not to steal scenes from co-star Russell Crowe, but when his time comes he lets out a stark and involving performance. Crowe is worthy of his Oscar nomination for best actor; he delivers a performance of great subbtlness, but with an intense underlying tone of innovative depth and power. He captures all of the little tensions and stresses of his character, making his scenes involving, subversive, and taut.
Michael Mann is the film's director, who also directed the 1995 thriller "Heat" starring Val Kilmer, Robert De Niro, and Al Pacino. Here, he pays close attention to details; when a character pushes numbers on a pay phone, the camera captures the feeling-also hitting golf ball against a backdrop, dropping glasses on a table, and notably in an intense scene where two people fax each other important statements and questions. Mann also injects effective camera angles complete with slow motion photography, taking the view of the character, and close up shots.
"The Insider" inhabits a strong social message dealing with the influence of television, reputation, honesty, and so forth. The biggest ethic I think Mann is trying to get across is of modern morality: always do the right thing, follow you conscience, no matter what the cost. Then there's the film's most provoking issue: "Fame has a fifteen-minute half-life. Infamy lasts a little longer."
Russell Crowe at his best as a Kentucky tobacco executive in Eric Roth and Michael Mann's masterpiece, "The Insider," is one of the most underrated American films ever. Not only is it important historically for its political implications - not about tobacco, but about conflicts of commercial interest that control freedom of speech along the airwaves in the U.S.- it is a great story and it is true. Disney had no idea how to market "The Insider" and essentially sold it as tobacco movie and it is so much more. Pacino gives a grand A plus performance as a Long Island Jewish producer and halfway through the movie I forgot he was Al Pacino. Even better Christopher Plummer masterfully captures the full essence of Mike Wallace. Gina Gershon could turn lust from a stone as always. Michael Mann seems to always pull strong performances from his actors, and Eric Roth who brilliantly adapted "Forrest Gump" did the same here with Mann. Though long, "The Insider" is never boring and a movie all Americans should see twice to make sure they fully comprehend regardless of how you feel about the tobacco debate.
"The Insider" in many ways reflects the golden days of American
cinematography, where every scene serves a purpose, dialogue is sharp and
poignant, and characters and events remain true to their emotions and
The film presents certain questions throughout its duration that are intended to invoke thought in the viewer, and at the same time explores them to unprecedented depths which are by no means native to the film industry. The story is of a quick-paced nature, and demands that the viewer pay the utmost attention to every single line and image presented; it flabbergasts in its unparallelled structure of continuity and coherence to those sentient enough.
After watching this film, it became apparent why Crowe was so reluctant to play the role of Maximus in "Gladiator" after acting the part of Jeffrey Wigand. It appears more or less as if Crowe had been this character in reality, and it really inspires to see that such a talented actor is finally beginning to enjoy the prominence that he deserves.
In the past decades, there has been a progressive decline in the number of intelligent films making it onto the market, but the success of "The Insider" will hopefully serve as a shout-out to all the film companies and directors reluctant to tread on such sensitive ground. This movie could not receive a higher recommendation!
Forget Russell Crowe's performance by numbers in 'Gladiator' (good though
that film was), and enjoy his acting talent here alongside Al Pacino. Both
men give inspired and classy masterclasses in how to put a character across.
'The Insider' is unusual, it is long and wordy (not often the case in
modern movies), it has a superb soundtrack - 'Sacrifice', in particular -
and it makes you involved, makes you care.
Curious, then, that a Roman epic outshone it. A good epic, but not in the same class.
From scene one, this film delivers a long slow burn as the tale of power and corruption unfolds. There is little action, but the film is steeped in an atmosphere of tension and high drama. The direction by Michael Mann is masterful, an object lesson in how to frame shots and let silence, as well as words - and music - work for the story. Al Pacino is once more the great actor of early films such as 'Scarecrow', instead of the theatrical performer of recent films. Russell Crowe shows his solid 'ordinary guy'character as more tortured through losing his family than any of the macho scenes he portrayed in 'Gladiator.' A superb film.
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