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 The World of Film in Australia - on the Internet Updated Tuesday September 15, 2020 


This is a true story. It cost the tobacco industry US$246 billion when sued by 50 States to recover medical care costs associated with tobacco abuse. Jeffrey Wigand (Russell Crowe) is 'the insider' - a scientist inside the tobacco industry who is fired unfairly - and muzzled by his confidentiality agreement with his ex-employer Brown & Williamson. Lowell Bergman (Al Pacino), investigative reporter and segment producer for 60 Minutes, mostly for the Mike Wallace (Christopher Plummer) segments, is working on a story that brings him into contact with Wigand and his journalistic instincts recognise there is a potent secret behind Wigand's silence. After much anguish, Wigand agrees to an interview to go public with information that is devestating for the tobacco lobby, but a CBS corporate decision stops 60 Minutes from airing the interview. Bergman faces the challenge of his exemplary career and Wigand faces personal as well as professional oblivion.

"Russell Crowe and Al Pacino both rise to the peak of their talents in this gripping yarn based on fact, a story that touches on some of the more essential aspects of a free press and a well informed society. The Insider restores faith in the historical documentary-turned into drama, because it takes such care with the context and the details of the story - as all good journalists (and movie makers) should. [Excuse the righteous tone.] It does so by engaging us with the personalities involved, their motivations and the sense of enormous personal cost of their public-minded (but not pompous) activities, so we see the big picture as well as the small. The dialogue is often sparse, filled with the crucial spaces and silences, where what is unsaid is mountainous. This is reflected in and aided by the lighting camerawork. Shadows, dark spots, side shots, half lit faces, jump cuts to ECUs of a patch of face, tantalising yet accessible and speaking volumes, progressing the emotional story - stories - that underpin this giant human drama involving small individuals (like young daughters of the whistle blower) as well as the world's largest corporations. Handled with assurance, the material is revealed in stages, like a giant painting, or a long story, each piece (scene) making sense in context of its neighbours. Music also plays a powerful role, and the score is notable for its eclecticism and vibrancy, ranging from ambient dread, to choral to jazz to timpannic, with stylish flexibility. A satisfying and important film with the power of a giant locomotive, it sits well as an icon of movies that document how we all might make a difference in this world."
Andrew L. Urban

"Powerful and shocking, The Insider is not only a gripping insight into investigative journalism, but a fascinating look at human nature. This is a David and Goliath story, told effectively, almost documentary style at times, and without the Hollywood gloss. Media institutions like 60 Minutes are part of our every day life, as are the issues of tobacco and big business. Does truth have a chance in a world of corporate greed, where commerce is a voracious predator? This intelligent script has attracted the kind of star cast that elevates it into a terrific and involving film. Al Pacino and Russell Crowe are dynamite in this powderkeg waiting to explode. Pacino just gets better and better, while Crowe discards his own persona and gets under the pudgy, ageing skin of a character who risks all for integrity. A treat to see Christopher Plummer in a tailor-made role, as the 60 Minutes host, but all the is strong, grounding the characters and making them absolutely real. We get a sense of life under the microscope; it's harshness is captured by strong lighting and glaring close ups that take us beyond the comfort zone. Greed is an ugly colour; we glimpse it all from the inside. It's a frightening tale, and the most frightening thing is that this is not fiction. Can a life be squashed so easily? The running time is long, but don't be put off this is one story that needs time to lead you through the dark, twisting corridors of life. If you are discerning about the films you see, The Insider is an experience you must encounter."
Louise Keller

"Russell Crowe. Russell Crowe. Russell Crowe. What a revelation. Certainly he's managed to pull off some tough guy roles in the past but this guy's a real actor. Al Pacino is a great actor. He does all the emotional stuff well and is always reliable in carrying a picture as its star. But he has never shown the range of character that Russell Crowe displays in this film. Compare his roles in such films as LA Confidential and Romper Stomper with his portrayal of Jeffrey Wigand here. These characters are at opposite ends of the spectrum. Yet Crowe is fully convincing in each. His Wigand is quietly intelligent but ever so gentle. He has little control over his life. The one piece of control he does have will risk all and thus is hugely terrifying. We see it all through Crowe in this immensely engaging true story. He is, of course, ably supported by Pacino in another star turn and a wonderfully witty, wry performance by Christopher Plummer as real life 60 Minutes superstar, Mike Wallace. It would be interesting to know Wallace's reaction to his portrayal here as it's unusual to see someone with such a competent profile depicted with such flaws. Overall the film is fascinating, a grippingly told story by director/co-writer Michael Mann (Heat). As is his way, The Insider is long but not laboured. If the idea of the story doesn't grab you, see it for Crowe's performance alone. It's a knockout."
Lee Gough

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CAST: Al Pacino, Russell Crowe, Christopher Plummer, Diane Venora, Philip Baker Hall, Lindsay Crouse, Debi Mazar, Stephen Tobolowsky, Colm Feore, Bruce McGill, Gina Gershon, Michael Gambon, Rip Torn

DIRECTOR: Michael Mann

PRODUCER: Michael Mann & Pieter Jan Brugge

SCRIPT: Eric Roth & Michael Mann (based on the Vanity Fair article 'The Man Who Knew Too Much')


EDITOR: William Goldenberg, Paul Rubell, David Rosenbloom

MUSIC: Lisa Gerrard & Pieter Bourke


RUNNING TIME: 157 minutes


AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: January 26, 2000

VIDEO RELEASE: July 26, 2000

VIDEO DISTRIBUTOR: Buena Vista International

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