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From the April 2000
Film Review

Film Review Hotline
4 Stars
Russell Crowe and Al Pacino talk discreetly in The Insider
Up in smoke
STARS: Al Pacino, Russell Crowe, Christopher Plummer, Diane Venora, Philip Baker Hall, Lindsay Crouse, Debi Mazar
DIRECTOR: Michael Mann
SCREENPLAY: Eric Roth and Michael Mann
CERTIFICATE: 15DISTRIBUTOR and Picture copyright: Buena Vista
RUNNING TIME: 2hrs 35mins

A riveting, real-life conspiracy drama with a difference. The ‘big brother’ here is not the FBI, CIA or any renegade Governmental organization. No, the people destroying the lives of former scientist Jeffrey Wigand (Crowe) are representatives of the tobacco industry. And these people really are bad for your health.

Based on a Vanity Fair article entitled ‘The Man Who Knew Too Much’, The Insider tells in painstaking, vivid detail about the attempts of 60 Minutes producer Lowell Bergman (Pacino) to get the sacked Wigand to spill the beans. He’s privy to devastating information about illegal practices within tobacco giants Brown & Williamson, but getting him to speak out won’t be easy. And when Bergman finally convinces Wigand to tell all, airing the interview tape could be very, very costly to all involved.

Some US critics talked about this movie in the same breath as Watergate exposé All the President’s Men, but it isn’t quite in that league and Mann’s insistence on presenting every tiny nuance of the story, can be a little wearing. Storytelling indulgences aside, this is an extremely accomplished film and the director’s electrifying visual flair and expressive camerawork has deservedly put him in the running for an Oscar. This is no better illustrated than in a stunningly claustrophobic sequence where Wigand is silently intimidated by an unknown figure while whacking a few golf balls on the range.

What a cast, too. Pacino is at the top of his dynamic, edgy game as Bergman and you really can’t imagine anyone else bringing such punchy determination to the role. Even better is Plummer’s luminous turn as 60 Minutes’ arrogant star reporter Mike Wallace, whose fearlessness in taking on CBS executives is as much about pandering to his own over-inflated ego as it is about the pursuit of the truth.

The performance that everybody is talking about, though, is Crowe’s atypical dressing-down as the unfortunate scapegoat Wigand. About as far from LA Confidential’s explosive Bud White as you can get, Crowe really shows his range, creating enormous empathy for his uneasy, apprehensive protagonist. You feel a crushing sense of involvement in the aftermath of Wigand’s actions, even if you are left wondering why such a gifted and intelligent man allowed himself to be manipulated to such a disastrous extent.

Jason Caro

Read our massive reviews section in this month's Film Review, which also includes Russell Crowe and Al Pacino interviewed about The Insider
Reviews © Visual Imagination Ltd 2000. Not for reproduction.

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Also reviewed online this month:
4 Stars
THE GREEN MILE • released February 25


5 Stars
Tumbleweeds • March 3
The Long Good Friday • March 3
Magnolia • March 17
Being John Malkovich • March 17
In All Innocence • March 17
A Matter of Life and Death • March 24

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Show Me Love (F***king Amal)March 3
Three Kings • March 3
Whatever Happened to Harold
Smith? • March 10
Broken Vessels • March 24
Les Convoyeurs Attendent
(The Carriers Are Waiting)March 31