The Insider

January 28, 2012 9 Min Read

Review by: Matt Brighton

Plot: What’s it about?

For years Tobacco companies have been telling us that cigarattes, and more to the point, Nicotene is not addictive. Are they right or wrong? We’ll probably never know the whole truth, but The Insider paints a pretty good portait of what we already know. Michael Mann, reknown for his ability to make gripping, emotional movies does it again with his latest, The Insider. The Insider was just nominated for a few major Academy Awards, and though it wasn’t victorious, it’s still a sign that the movie impressed some pretty important people. Most noteably, Austrailian-born Russell Crown portrays the whistle-blowing executive with almost perfection. There’s no way you could tell he’s Austrialian and if I had my vote, I’d have given him the Oscar and not Kevin Spacey. As always, Al Pacino is great in his role as the producer of “60 Minutes”, but I’m getting a bit tired of his manic up and down vocal style. Give it a rest already. Onto the story… The Insider opens with Dr. Jeffrey Wigand quietly packing up his things and heading out of the posh offices of Brown Williamson tobacco. Hardly anyone notices, except for a secutiry guard who speaks into his radio (to make sure he leaves with no secrets?). He arrives at home early, not having enough nerve to tell his wife that he has just been terminated. Wigand has, or I should say had, the good life. Nice house, two cars (Mercedes and an Audi), member of a country club and plenty of money for the family. Funny how life can turn on you…within a few weeks of his termination, he has traded in his sports car for a Volvo and has moved to a house that is clearly what he and his wife are not used to. It’s about then that Wigand is petitioned to appear as a consultatnt to interpret some information about the tobacco industry (of which he was just fired). You see, Lowell Bergman (Pacino) has just had a package delivered to his door and it concerns information all about the tobacco industry. Of course, unless you know what you’re looking for, you might as well be reading ancient Greek. Reluctantly Wigand accepts the offer to meet with Wigand only to be asked to do an interview for the TV news show, 60 Minutes. Wigand’s ex company is not too happy by this and before he can even blink, he’s threatened to be cut off from his Medical coverage and sued. The real meat of the movie is Wigand’s decision to do the interview. Bucking the odds and putting his family’s well-being aside, Wigand feels that he must do what is right and conduct the inteview with the one and only Mike Wallace. I was a bit suprised by seeing Wallace with such a large part (played by an uncanny lookalike by the name of Christopher Plummer). We see how much influence that Wallace has over the show, the network and the producers and the interview is taped. Taping the interview is one thing, airing it is another. This is what The Insider is all about. We see repeatedly footage of the “Seven Dwarfs” or the Seven CEO’s of big tobacco saying, testifying that tobacco is not addictive. It’s this type of imagery that makes The Insider so powerful. Wigand, feeling he has done the right thing, has jumped through hoops and even gone to a different state to make his testimony. Needless to say, he is a bit upset when he finds out that the show will air in an entire different manner than had been told. Dr. Wigand’s life has all but crumbled, he is now a teacher at a high school teaching Japaneese and Chemistry, his wife has taken his kids and filed for divorce and he’s been receiving death threats from unknown thugs. The character development between Pacino and Crowe is amazing. We see Pacino, a passionate corporate executive (no that’s not a contradiction in terms) who feels utter remorse at what he has done by breaking his word to Wigand (about not airing the show). No matter which way you cut it, Wigand’s life is changed, he’s not the person he was a year ago. He doesn’t have the same job, his wife and kids are gone, he has broken his confidential agreement with his former company and will be tied up in courts for the next few years. And for what? He told the truth about what he knew. He divulged what the comanies were doing. What they were doing to make cigarettes even more addicitive, to give the cigarettes the added flavor and appeal to hook new smokers. Ironic how one man’s triumph is another man’s tragedy. Overall, The Insider is a different kind of movie that we might expect from a director like Michael Mann. It has his trademark length (clocking in at around two and a half hours), but lacks the action that his previous films (The Last of the Mohicans and Heat) did. Still, the whole movie is tense. We don’t know what to expect, we want to see justice served but just don’t know what will happen. It’s this kind of intensity and emotion coupled with the acting of Crowe and Pacino that make The Inisder one of the most gripping, intense true stories that has come around in years. Highly recommended.

Video: How does it look?

Disney has finally started something close to a trend. The image is anamorphically enhanced at 2.35:1 and it looks great. Unlike some of their more recent efforts this movie actually is formatted for widescreen TV’s. The colors are right on, and as with Heat, there are a lot of scenes with a washed out, bluish tint to them. A lot of night scenes as well. No artifacting, no bleeding, no shimmering. The picture is so clear that we can see the beads of sweat on Crowe’s forehead! Finally, Disney…good job.

Audio: How does it sound?

The Insider is presented in a Dolby Digital 5.1 mix and it serves it’s purpose. I personally think that it could have passed with a Dolby Surround mix, but it’s great to have the added depth and feel of the full 5.1 effect. Unlike The Last of the Mohincans or Heat (which has some of the best sound on DVD to date), most of the movie is dialogue-driven. There are some pretty decent surround effects, but this movie is all about the plot and for some, I feel, that sound could be a distraction. Anyhow, it’s a nice mix and in certain scenes it does a wonderful job at adding tension to the already tense storyline.

Supplements: What are the extras?

Along with a trailer, Disney has included a featurette which is mildly entertaining. It doesn’t add a lot of information to what we already knew, but hey…extras are extras. How cool would a Michael Mann/Russell Crowe/Al Pacino commentary be?

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