The Insider (1999)


Movie Review

Directed by: Michael Mann

Starring: Al Pacino, Russell Crowe, and Christopher Plummer

1999 seems to be the year with the best thrillers of all kinds—ghost stories, mystery thrillers, and corporate thrillers.  In The Insider, 60 Minutes producer Lowell Bergman (Al Pacino) fights to bring the voice of a discredited research scientist to light.  Jeffrey Wigand (Russell Crowe) is a former employee of tobacco firm Brown and Williamson who fully understands the negative impact of smoking on public health.  When he was fired by the company, he signed a confidentiality agreement stating that he would not disclose any information regarding his employment with the firm.  However, Bergman convinces Wigand to do an interview on 60 Minutes and he ultimately opts to violate this confidentiality agreement to bring vital information to the American public about the health risks of smoking.  Of course, Brown and Williamson and the other big tobacco firms pull out all the stops to prevent this interview from ever reaching the light of day.  Violating this confidentiality agreement poses more than just legal risks for Wigand though.  If CBS airs Wigand’s interview segment, they could face a multi-billion dollar lawsuit from Brown and Williamson.  With this potential legal fiasco looming over the segment, CBS decides to kill it.  If Bergman and Wigand want this segment aired, they have to put their careers and lives on the line.  

The Insider is one of the most powerful and compelling thrillers you will ever see.  As intelligent and engaging as the plot of The Insider is, what makes this film great is the acting talent that Michael Mann has assembled in his cast.  Al Pacino delivers his last great performance of the 90s as the conflicted news producer Lowell Bergman, while Russell Crowe delivers an understated yet emotive performance as whistleblower Jeffrey Wigand.  Supporting cast members Christopher Plummer, Michael Gambon, and Philip Baker Hall also give strong performances in the film.  It’s a slow-paced movie that gradually builds to a powerful conclusion.  It is Michael Mann’s finest film to date.  The Insider clocks in at just over two and a half hours.  Don’t drink too much, and plan your bathroom breaks accordingly.



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