The Insider 
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This film tells the true story of Jeffrey Wigand, a former tobacco executive, who decided to appear on the CBS-TV News show "60 Minutes." As matter of conscience partially prodded by producer Lowell Bergman, he revealed that, the tobacco industry was not only aware that cigarettes are addictive & harmful, but deliberately worked on increasing that addictiveness. Unfortunately, both protagonists of this story learn the hard way that simply telling the truth is not enough as they struggle against both Big Tobacco's attempts to silence them and the CBS TV Network's own cowardly complict preference of putting money as a higher priority over the truth.
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(Oh, and it gets four stars simply because we're not kidding ourselves here. There will be better movies, and there's no point giving everything five just becasue you like the film! It's a really good picture, but lets get these ratings in perspective....)
Regards, Pete Wilson.
So it's nice to see Michael Mann pick up the reins and show that in these days of exploding White Houses and strangely attired superheroes that he is the most sensitive and character focussed director around.
Based on an article that appeared in Vanity Fair, centred around the plight of 'whistle blower' Jeffrey Wigand, the film centres on the efforts of both Wigand and Lowell Bergman in exposing the unsavoury practices of the so called 'Big Tobacco' companies in increasing nicotine levels in cigarette produce to keep 'users' buying. When Wigand - essentially an executive chemist at one of the big companies - began questioning the ethics of such practices, he was hounded out of his job and tied up in legal tape to prevent him spilling the beans. Bergman, a producer on 60 minutes attempts to untie the tape . . .
Stunning visuals and a brilliantly direct script, allied to Crowe's mesmerising performance as Wigand and a more-measured-than-of-late performance by the legendary Pacino, mean this film flies past - quite an effort when it's three hours long.
One of Mann's strengths is, as I have said, characterisation, and he is careful not to deify either lead. Wigand in particular is presented as a flawed, lonely man, generally untrusting and uncomfortable around others. Crowe certainly merited his Oscar nomination and should feel robbed in not winning the award. Gladiator should be regarded as pay off for The Insider.
The set pieces are, as we have come to expect from Mann, sublime. In particular, the scene where Wigand locks himself in the hotel room overlooking Brown & Williamson's legal dept is absolutely beautiful. The music, the visual effects in the wall appearing to 'move' intercut with Bergman trying to phone Wigand from his holiday retreat, create, in my view, the best individual scene of any film I can remember.
A clearly heavy handed subject is dealt with sensibly, avoiding sentimentality and schmaltzy conclusions. Perhaps this contributed to the film's worryingly poor box office return in America. The film fared better in Europe, perhaps due to Mann avoiding preaching from the moral high ground.
Interestingly, Mann is a heavy smoker (and smoked constantly while writing the script with his associate Eric Roth) but there is not one cigarette smoked in the entire film.
Your DVD collection is not complete without this - although the outrageous lack of extras suggest that an update should be forthcoming (ie with the original 60 Minutes program etc).
Jeffrey Wigand's descent into despair and psychological torture is riveting and deeply moving - in my opinion this is by far Russel Crowe's best and most powerful role. His portrayal of Wigand is astounding. Al Pacino is perfectly cast as the 60 Seconds producer Lowell Bergman, a hard-hitting journalist who vows NEVER to leave a source hanging out to dry. Such is the genius of the switch between Wigand's moral dilemma of whether to break his confidentiality agreement and expose the dirty dealing of a tobacco corporation in the first half of the film to Bergman's moral dilemma of whether to accept the decision of whether to edit the interview or to fight with everything he's got to air it intact... sound confusing? Watch this film!
Superbly directed and deeply moving, this is a must-see for all fans of Michael Mann, and indeed all fans of a thought-provoking film. An absolute wonder, this is in my opinion Mann's crowning achievement.
Excellent performances all round. This is the sort of part that Al Pacino can play with his eyes shut, but it is Russell Crowe who steals the show for his portrayal of a man caught between a legal obligation to turn a blind eye to what he has seen in the tobacco industry and a compulsion to tell the world what is really going on.
Even though Kevin Spacey's Lester Burnham in American Beauty was certainly a worthy winner of the best actor Oscar, Crowe's performance in this film out-ranks it and in my opinion should have won it.
While this is a long film, it's not over-long because of it's ability to keep your attention and take the audience along with the story it is telling.
This film is taken from real life events and it shows, because it has a definate sense of authenticity about it. It makes you believe what is really going on.
This is, quite simply, the best film I have seen in ages. Full marks.
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Good story that will keep you on the edge of your seat