Michael Mann's The Insider withstands the test of time, and yet few have experienced this great movie. Nominated for seven Academy Awards including Best Picture back in 1999, the Al Pacino/Russell Crowe-starring movie earned only $29 million against a budget of $90 million. But money isn't everything, right?
Wait, it is? Damn.
The Insider is, ultimately, about money. Tobacco insider Jeffrey Wigand wants to do the right thing, but the right thing means taking down a multi-billion industry. The tobacco companies will stop at nothing to protect their product. Meanwhile, "60 Minutes" producer Lowell Bergman wants to tell the truth, but finds that corporate interests don't always think the truth is best for business.
The riveting and suspenseful film was one of the best of 1999. Somehow, Mann managed to turn a story about political manuevering and legal battles into a highly suspenseful and fast-paced film, with great acting, a terrific script, and superb direction. Mann's visual craft and powerful storytelling ability make this long movie as entertaining as it is informative.
Russell Crowe earned an Oscar nod for his portrayal of Jeffrey Wigand, and though I have heard that Wigand himself has complained about this movie, Crowe does an excellent job nonetheless. He earned an Oscar for Gladiator, but The Insider features the best performance of his career.
I also consider The Insider to showcase the last great performance by Al Pacino before he officially slipped into over-acting and doing caricatures of himself.
As superb as the acting is, the real star of The Insider is the direction. As mentioned earlier, Mann uses tons of interesting shots to keep the physical action entertaining and moving, because the movie does span a good two hours and a half. Not only was I not bored, I was actually on the edge of my seat for much of it. Nearly fifteen years later and after repeated viewings, the movie is still as tense and mesmerizing as ever.
The Insider is a thrilling and informative piece of work from director Michael Mann. It should be seen. Everyone knows that cigarettes are bad; The Insider tells us why we know. The latest Blu-ray release offers nothing new, but the movie speaks for itself.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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