The Insider review

:. Director: Michael Mann
:. Starring: Al Pacino, Russell Crowe
:. Running Time: 2:37
:. Year: 1999
:. Country: USA

In The Insider, Al Pacino (Heat, Miami Vice) and Al Pacino team up again, this time to take on the tobacco dealers. Without considering the perfume of scandal surrounding its true story plot, the film is a well-crafted and intense thriller.

The Insider tells the story of whistle-blower Jeffrey Wigand (played by a formidable Russell Crowe), a scientist for one of the top seven American tobacco giants, Brown & Williamson, who has more than unkind words for his former employer about the use of additives like ammonia to cigarettes to make the nicotine rush that much stronger. He is fired, given a compensation package, and then threatened and blackmailed into signing a wider corporate confidentiality agreement to keep quiet. Enter Lowell Bergman (Pacino): edgy 60 Minutes producer, hardhitting and schooled in 60's leftism, and morally Wigand's equal. He gets Wigand to tell his story and it will air like all of the other 60 Minutes stories. This time though, corporate CBS backs down and both Wigand and Bergman are left hung out to dry. Their ensuing dance steps on too many toes and this movie tells the story from their point of view.

The movie's success relies on its many assets. First, since the story is based on a true story, the plot works well and does not try to hammer us with a plethora cheap and unbelievable tricks a la Grisham. Second, the cast is as strong as it could be. Al Pacino is back in shape in a role where only he could excell. But the strongest performance comes from Russell Crowe, who transformed himself into a geeky scientist,a powderkeg of stubborness and vulnerability. He therefore confirms his state as one of the best and most under-rated actors of his generation. Finally, of course Al Pacino's direction provides an arty touch to this straight-forward story. One will recognize his signature all along as well as references to his previous work. Use of close-ups, symmetry,and blue color as well as the usual sequences of people in deep thought by the water that made Don Johnson famous or the use of an edgy soundtrack to reinforce the power of the images. One can also recognize some of his recurrent themes, like the destruction of the family core that is sacrificed to a personal mission.

The film looks pretty fair considering the events that really happened, and even if of course, it probably adds a Hollywood touch, it delivers a punch to the mafia of the the tobacco industry, a punch that the show 60 Minutes couldn't deliver.

The Insider may be fairly classic and straightforward but it delivers a rush that's not nicotine.

  Fred Thom

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