The Insider (1999)

The Insider (1999)
  • Time: 157 min
  • Genre: Biography | Drama | Thriller
  • Director: Michael Mann
  • Cast: Al Pacino, Russell Crowe, Christopher Plummer


Balls-out “60 Minutes” producer Lowell Bergman sniffs a story when a former research biologist for Brown & Williamson, Jeff Wigand, won’t talk to him. When the company leans hard on Wigand to honor a confidentiality agreement, he gets his back up. Trusting Bergman and despite a crumbling marriage, he goes on camera for a Mike Wallace interview and risks arrest for contempt of court. Westinghouse is negotiating to buy CBS, so CBS attorneys advise CBS News to shelve the interview and avoid a lawsuit. “60 Minutes” and CBS News bosses cave, Wigand is hung out to dry, Bergman is compromised, and the CEOs of Big Tobacco may get away with perjury. Will the truth out?


  • The Insider is a corporate thriller based on the true story of a 60 Minutes television series segment, as seen through the eyes of a real tobacco executive, Jeffrey Wigand.The 60 Minutes story originally aired in November 1995 in an altered form because of objections by CBS’ then- owner, Laurence Tisch, who also controlled Lorillard Tobacco.The story was later aired on February 4, 1996.It stars Al Pacino as Lowell Bergman,Russell Crowe as Jeffrey Wigand, Christopher Plummer as Mike Wallace,Bruce McGill as Attorney Ron Motley, Philip Baker Hall as Don Hewitt together with Diane Venora, Michael Gambon, Lindsay Crouse, Gina Gershon, Debi Mazar, and Colm Feore. It was adapted by Eric Roth and Michael Mann from the Vanity Fair magazine article “The Man Who Knew Too Much” by Marie Brenner. The film was also directed by Mann.

    The Insider tells the true story of a man who decided to tell the world what the seven major tobacco companies knew and concealed about the dangers of their product – the cigarette. Jeffrey Wigand was a scientist employed in research for a tobacco firm, Brown and Williamson. Not long after he was fired by Brown and Williamson,Wigand came into contact with Lowell Bergman, a producer for 60 Minutes who worked closely with journalist Mike Wallace. Bergman arranged for Wigand to be interviewed by Wallace for a 60 Minutes expose on the cigarette industry, though Wigand was still bound by a confidentiality agreement not to discuss his employment with the company. Despite Wigand’s willingness to talk, CBS pulled his interview from at the last minute after Brown and Williamson threatened a multi-billion dollar lawsuit. The staff of 60 Minutes and CBS News were soon embroiled in an internal struggle over the killing of the story,and Wigand found himself the subject of lawsuits and a smear campaign,without his full story reaching the public.

    This is one great film expose about the truth behind the cigarette,the dangers of smoking in terms of the chemicals behind in the production of the dangerous product and the reason behind why people continue to get addicted to smoking despite the fact of the health hazards behind it.It was more than just a fascinating whistle blower about the ingredients of tobacco.

    The film also consists of great performance from Pacino,Crowe and Plummer as well as Mann’s brilliant direction,despite having no action scenes for which he is known for,that truly makes it a truly great film. Also,the screenplay also made the not-so-interesting story full of suspense and tension.

    Overall,The Insider is one hell of an excellent film.

  • For Jeffrey Wigand (Russell Crowe), the titular Insider, the truer his truth, the bigger the trouble. If he tells the truth, he saves lives. If he tells the same truth, he could topple a multi-billion dollar industry and/or a prestigious television network. If he tells this truth, he could lose his wife, his children, his reputation, and possibly his life.

    This is Jeffrey Wigand: a former head of research and development and a corporate officer at Brown & Williamson, the third-largest tobacco company in the nation. This is what Jeffrey Wigand knows: Brown & Williamson and all the tobacco companies are fostering nicotine addiction despite their statements that they are not. “We’re in the nicotine delivery business,” he states authoritatively. He states this on 60 Minutes in an interview conducted by Mike Wallace (Christopher Plummer). The interview may never even air.

    Why not? It’s a valid question. This is, after all, the sort of hard-hitting, illuminating investigative report one has come to expect from 60 Minutes. Lowell Bergman (Al Pacino), Mike Wallace’s longtime segment producer, certainly thinks so. He’s a dab hand at sniffing out a winner and he senses one in the concentrated but wary Wigand. “He’s got something to say and I want it on 60 Minutes,” he tells his crew, but there are complications to be overcome.

    First of all, when Wigand was fired from Brown & Williamson, he signed a confidentiality agreement forbidding him to talk of the work he oversaw while employed at the company. If Wigand is compelled to talk, via court public record, the confidentiality agreement could be circumvented. Despite his wife’s (Diane Venora) misgivings and fear for their safety, Wigand is compelled – sometimes out of anger, sometimes out of the need to protect his integrity, sometimes out of concern for public safety. It won’t be easy: aside from the constant death threats, a smear campaign is being waged against Wigand to silence him. While Wigand is fighting his battles, both internal and external, Lowell is struggling to prevent leaks to papers like The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal and rallying to get the segment to air as is.

    Writer-director Michael Mann has made only a handful of films, all good. The last two, The Last of the Mohicans and Heat, were particularly noteworthy. As is The Insider, which continues his theme of morally ambiguous men caught in existentialist battling. Mann’s focus this time is on a more intimate level and Dante Spinotti’s camerawork reflects this. At times, the frame can barely contain the faces. People go in and out of focus, in and out of shadows. Spinotti also shoots characters in deep focus – the focus shifts between the two people in the frame, sometimes between the character and their background. Eyes and ears dominate.

    The acting – from Bruce McGill and Wings Hauser as dueling attorneys to Michael Gambon’s slithery Brown & Williamson head honcho to Gina Gershon’s sleek CBS go-between to Diane Venora’s glamorous Southern belle struggling to be a supportive wife to Christopher Plummer’s irascible and feisty Mike Wallace – is flawless.

    Mann, who elicited a complicated and restrained performance from Pacino in Heat, does so once again. Sometimes one takes for granted the talents of a prodigiously gifted actor; The Insider reminds us not to. It also reminds us how exhilarating it is to watch an actor in his prime and that is the joy of watching Crowe, who’s long delivered excellence (Proof, Romper Stomper) but has only now come to the fore due to his superb turn in L.A. Confidential.

    Crowe, hiding behind manufactured wrinkles, assisted gray hair and a self-grown paunch, is nearly unrecognizable as Wigand. Crowe plays him on edge, as if he could be unstrung at any second. And he could be. As Crowe delineates in a precisely calibrated portrayal, Wigand is a man who prides his integrity, who lives and breathes by his emotions, who wants to do right for himself but also for his family – thus is he in eternal conflict. It was only Jeffrey Wigand’s ambition to tell the truth and that is exactly what Crowe does – he tells Wigand’s truth by inhabiting and revealing the truth of Wigand himself.

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