Prayer Focus
Movie Review

The Insider

MPAA Rating: R for language

Reviewed by: Andrew Hager

Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Biography Thriller Drama
2 hr. 37 min.
Al Pacino in THE INSIDER.

Starring: Al Pacino, Russell Crowe, Christopher Plummer, Diane Venora, Philip Baker Hall | Director: Michael Mann | Producers: Michael Mann, Pieter Jan Brugge | Writers: Marie Brenner, Eric Roth | Distributor: Touchstone Pictures

“The Insider” is director Michael Mann’s take on the scandal that took place at “60 Minutes” a few years back. It seemed that the news magazine show had a hot story about the dangerous practices of the tobacco company, but the producers edited the story to avoid a lawsuit from Brown and Williamson, the tobacco giant.

In Mann’s film, Al Pacino is the producer who digs for the story and fights to have it aired. His informant, Jeffrey Wigant (played effectively by Russel Crowe) was a scientist for Brown and Williamson, who is now receiving threats from mysterious forces because he refuses to sign an extended confidentiality agreement which would prohibit him from revealing the details of his job to anyone. He knows that B&W spiked the cigarettes with ammonia to help release the addictive properties of nicotine to smokers. As the threats escalate, his life dissolves and “60 Minutes” wants him to go on the air.

The film was wholly satisfying, though at times the cameras were a bit too shaky. The cameras also hold tight close-ups of the performers, adding a sense of intensity to what could have been a boring film about journalism, instead making it somewhat of a thriller.

There is no nudity or violence in this film. The R rating is for profanity alone, which is atypical in most movies today. Even the language is not intolerable and does not detract from the story.

The film’s message is an important one: honesty is necessary, even when it means you might be put in danger.

Year of Release—1999

Viewer Comments
Michael Mann’s “The Insider” is by far one of the best films of the year, topping “American Beauty” and the controversial “Fight Club.” The film’s success lies in its excellent acting (Pacino and Russell Crowe, who got an Oscar nomination) and Mann’s frenetic filmmaking techniques which grabs the viewer from the start and never lets go. The fact that this intellectual drama didn’t do very well at the box-office and “South Park” triumphed should say something about the public and how toned down our cognitive abilities have become.
—Chris Broderick, age 19
I thought this movie was well done overall and definitely worthwhile. On the R rating, one comment—why? “The Insider” is based on solid morals, and is much less offensive than most PG-13 films… some swearing for sure but nothing else… another indicator of the bogus movie rating scale… anyway… “The Insider” is a refreshing film depicting a true story of corporate evil vs. the common good. Similar to “A Civil Action,” the actors give compelling performances in extended dramas about significant legal cases. All drama, no action—the low key entertainment rating of “The Insider” will perhaps “resensitize” viewers, requring one to sit through and even think about an involving plot. I liked that. The camera work is continuously capturing, although “over-directed” was a sense I got: too many neat shots of too many average things. From a Christian viewpoint, I thought “The Insider” and the similarly themed “A Civil Action” were the best depicted films of the last year: displaying the ongoing battle between good and evil. Just be alert beforehand. These are long involving dramas. My Ratings: [3½/3½]
—Todd Adams, age 32
This is a worthwhile movie. The fact that tobacco is bad is not news. How powerful the tort process in this country has become was an eyeopener for me. Through fear of legal action, king tobacco was able to touch the “untouchable” television news journalists and squelch one of the greater news stories of the decade. Other messages include: “everyone has their price,” either that they don’t want to pay or that they will accept; and if you do the right thing, it could cost you everything and no one will be there to pick up the pieces. This movie increases gratitude for my Christian faith by reminding me that I have the Lord, and His way still beats the world’s best. My Ratings: [3½/3]
—Mark Dawson, age 50