The Insider

Unless you have been living under a rock, you already know the basic story for The Insider. In recent years, the efforts against tobacco companies have increased, and people have actually begun winning lawsuits against these companies. The Insider, based on Marie Brenner's Vanity Fair article "The Man Who Knew Too Much," fictionalizes the efforts of CBS producer Lowell Bergman (Al Pacino, Any Given Sunday, The Devil's Advocate) to get and air an interview with whistleblower Jeffrey Wigand (Russell Crowe, L.A. Confidential, Mystery, Alaska). Wigand, who was fired from his Brown & Williamson job as Director of Research and Development, was forced by executives to sign a confidentiality agreement. Wigand's job gave him knowledge of Brown and Williamson's efforts to add nicotine to cigarettes, potentially explosive information.

Wigand's name falls into the hands of Bergman, who is a producer on 60 Minutes. Wigand initially refuses to even speak with Bergman, piquing Bergman's curiosity. Bergman suspects that Wigand knows something important, and does all he can to win Wigand's trust. Eventually, Wigand agrees to do an interview with Mike Wallace (played by Christopher Plummer, Twelve Monkeys, Broadway's Barrymore) even as threats against the safety of him and his family increase. . After the interview, CBS executives decide to cut the interview, due to the possibility that airing the interview would open CBS to a multimillion-dollar lawsuit by Brown & Williamson. Bergman, as a newsman is horrified. He feels that the public has a right to know this information, and CBS management should not dictate policy to CBS news. Wigand feels that Bergman used and betrayed him.

Director Michael Mann (Heat, The Last of the Mohicans) has put together a taut, riveting film. There is very little physical action in the film, but lots of emotional and psychological drama, in a movie that, under different hands, would be considered overly long. The Insider is an actor's dream. Brenner and Eric Roth's (also scribe for The Horse Whisperer and The Postman) is full of great lines and scenes. The level of drama is high, but never melodramatic. Pacino, one of Hollywood's older actors, and Crowe, one of Hollywood's up and coming new actors, combine to give intense performances. Crowe donned a wig and gained forty pounds for his role in this movie. He seemingly melts from one role to another, almost unrecognizable from movie to movie.

Watching a movie based on facts you experience firsthand is always interesting. The events in The Insider transpired only a couple of years ago, and the repercussions still echo today. This movie gives an interesting look at what goes on behind the scenes at a newsmagazine. Different scenes show Pacino setting up and editing interviews, and these both showcase Bergman's skill as a producer and the care he shows towards his sources. The story behind the events of the interview played out dramatically on newspapers and television sets across the country, and Mann now gives a look from the inside out, one that is not always favorable to Wallace, 60 Minutes executive producer Don Hewitt, and CBS President Laurence Tisch. Not only are the events still fresh, but the potential lawsuits still loom large, as evidenced by Disney's disclaimers about the film. The Insider is a character driven charged drama that should surface again at Oscar time.

Haro Rates It: Pretty Good.
2 hours, 35 minutes, Rated R for language.

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