Reviewed by: Andrew Hager
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