The Insider (1999)Starring:
Al Pacino, Russell Crowe, Christopher Plummer, Diane Venora, Philip Baker HallDirected by:
Here you go Skooch, my first topfive_reviews exclusive movie review. Kim and I have owned this movie on VHS for quite a while now, but until this morning, I'd never watched it. We were trading old videos in and this was the best we could do. It was nominated for Best Picture in 2000, so we figured it would be good and worth watching. But, we just don't watch VHS anymore, and we were never in the right mood for it. I couldn't sleep last night, so I popped it in the VCR in our bedroom (Kim was working), which is home to our non-widescreen TV. I figured it wouldn't bother me too much that it was VHS there, and it could help me fall asleep.
No luck there, as I ended up watching the whole thing and not going to sleep until 6:30am. What was lucky, though, is that it was presented in widescreen. Huh. I didn't think they still did letterboxed videos. So, besides not putting me to sleep, how was it? Pretty freaking good. It's a really gripping story that doesn't have to resort to clichés or cheap suspense tricks. Which is good, since it's based on a true story. For those that don't know, here's the plot in a nut-shell: it's about a 60 Minutes story in 1994 where a former tobacco executive and head of research and development blows the whistle on the tobacco industry. In doing so, he breaks a confidentiality agreement, leading to his former boss threatening litigation against CBS if it airs the story. CBS News' parent company then forces 60 Minutes to edit out his interview out of fear. The producer of the segment who convinced the executive, Dr. Jeffrey Wigand (Russell Crowe), to speak, Lowell Bergman (Al Pacino), then fights to have the segment aired in its entirety.
I know it doesn't sound exciting, and, well exciting isn't a word I'd use to describe the movie anyway. Riveting is a better word to describe The Insider. If this wasn't a true story, and instead it was written by John Grisham, then there would be chase scenes and murder plots. But it is a true story, although dramatised. Russell Crowe received a Oscar nomination for his part, and he was excellent as always in it. However, I feel Al Pacino gives the best performance in the movie, and should have gotten the nod instead (or in addition). He's dynamite in the movie, it could possibly make an Al Pacino Top Five ranking, he's that good (I'm too unqualified to do that list, however). Christopher Plummer is also excellent as Mike Wallace (once you get over the fact that he doesn't really look like Mike Wallace), and I was surprised that he didn't get a Best Supporting Actor nod, but if you look at the list in 2000, you'll see that it was a packed year for supporting performances. Oh, and Skooch, Bruce McGill steals a scene in it.
It ended up being pretty timely for me to watch this movie, given all the troubles CBS News is currently facing. How ironic that in 1994 they didn't want to air a story they knew to be true, and 10 years later they couldn't wait to air a story that turns out to be based on forged documents.
All in all, I'm glad I finally watched it. I highly recommend the film. I was close to giving it a 5 out of 5, until they blew it by over-playing the score during the climactic montage. It seemed like director Michael Mann was trying too hard to manipulate the emotions of the audience there. Kim would have cried. It doesn't ruin the film, it just brings the score down a touch.