From the April 2000
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: 15 DISTRIBUTOR and Picture copyright: Buena Vista
RUNNING TIME: 2hrs 35mins
OPENING DATE (UK): March 10
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. Hes privy to devastating information about illegal practices within tobacco giants Brown & Williamson, but getting him to speak out wont 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 Presidents Men, but it isnt quite in that league and Manns 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 directors 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 cant imagine anyone else bringing such punchy determination to the role. Even better is Plummers 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 Crowes atypical dressing-down as the unfortunate scapegoat Wigand. About as far from LA Confidentials 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 Wigands actions, even if you are left wondering why such a gifted and intelligent man allowed himself to be manipulated to such a disastrous extent.
|Read our massive reviews section in this month's
Film Review, which also includes
Russell Crowe and Al Pacino interviewed about The
Reviews © Visual Imagination Ltd 2000. Not for reproduction.
Also reviewed online this month:
THE GREEN MILE released February 25
FULL DETAILS AND REVIEWS OF ALL THESE AND MORE IN THIS ISSUE