The Insider (1999) starring Al Pacino, Russell Crowe, Christopher Plummer, Diane Venora, Philip Baker Hall directed by Michael Mann Movie Review

The Insider (1999)   4/54/54/54/54/5

Russell Crowe as Jeffrey Wigand in The Insider (1999)

Whistlebowing & Cover-ups

157 minutes of compelling drama, that is what I can guarantee you if you choose to watch the multi nominated "The Insider", how it never won an Oscar is beyond me. Why is it compelling? Well I suppose if you know the true story on which "The Insider" is based there is that fascination but for those who don't you have a director who masterfully delivers a two act storyline about standing up for what is right in the face of growing pressure. That storytelling is beautifully visualised but also beautifully acted with Al Pacino and Russell Crowe delivering two masterful performances of men under pressure.

Lowell Bergman (Al Pacino - Devil's Advocate), producer of "60 minutes" receives an anonymous parcel containing data on the tobacco industry, it leads him to former industry scientist Jeff Wigand (Russell Crowe - Mystery Alaska) who has been fired from his profile job at Brown & Williamson. Despite being tied down by a confidentiality agreement, a crumbling marriage and several threats Jeff agrees not only to be interviewed by Mike Wallace (Christopher Plummer) for "60 minutes" but give a courtroom deposition of the damning evidence he has on the tobacco industry. But with the interview in the bag and the show edited ready to air Lowell's bosses cave in under pressure as the threat of legal action could scupper a profitable sale of CBS leaving Lowell with a decision to make about risking everything he's worked for like Jeff did.

Al Pacino as Lowell Bergman in The Insider (1999)

There is an irony about "The Insider" because it sounds like it could be a hard going movie, we have this story surrounding lies within the tobacco industry and cover-ups within the media industry yet it is incredibly simple. The first half of the movie is all about Jeff Wigand and what he went through in choosing to become a whistleblower, the consequences of breaking his confidentiality agreement, the threats he received and also the pressure on his family and the far stretching power of the tobacco industry to try and silence him. That is it so we watch as Wigand has to deal with his conscience of doing what is morally right and doing what would be right for him and his family leading to trouble in his marriage. Yet this is compelling because you live every moment of this, the danger of testifying, the pressure and you half wonder if at any point someone is going to put a bullet in him.

But then we have the equally good second act which focuses on CBS pulling the plug on the "60 Minutes" show because of the threat of litigation and what that would mean to the sale of the company. It's fascinating firstly to watch how to cover up things a slander campaign is launched against Wigand as the dirt is dug up on his past but it is more fascinating to watch Lowell Bergman try to be true to his word and not leave Wigand hanging. You may not understand all the mechanics of what goes on during this second half as Lowell aims to get the truth out there and in doing so put his own job on the line but you will find it compelling.

And that is to be honest the thing about "The Insider" these two acts of doing the right thing in the face of increasing pressure is captivating. Now whilst some of that is down to Michael Mann's direction who does a wonderful job of pacing the movie perfectly so that you feel the drama but have time to understand the ramifications it is the acting. Both Russell Crowe and Al Pacino deliver masterful performance bringing to life two very different characters who end up facing similar moral decisions. How Crowe didn't win the Best Actor Oscar is beyond me because it is a perfect performance showing how important it is to become the character.

What this all boils down to is that the "Insider" may sound like a heavy movie which goes on too long but it is anything but. This is a movie which from the word go is compelling and those 157 minutes just fly by.