11 – The Insider

Okay, all you puffin’ pagodas out there. You think you’ve heard enough about how bad smoking is for you? How it’ll kill you, eventually? How black it makes your lungs and how rancid it makes your breath? Well take a deep breath (or take several short ones, since your lungs won’t allow you to take a long one), because Michael Mann’s The Insider will reveal an amazing truth to you: Cigarettes are bad for you!

Sure, you’re saying to yourself, “I knew that! Duh! Don’t patronize me!” And really, it’s bad enough you’re made to feel like the ultimate social outcast, somewhere below unwed mothers and crack whores, but now a movie has to come along and confirm what all those morally superior so-called friends of yours have been telling you.

Well fear not, all you human chimneys. The Insider isn’t so much about the negatives of smoking as it is about the fight to get the story told on the air – specifically, on 60 Minutes. Seems top scientist Jeffrey Weigand (Russell Crowe) from the #3 tobacco company in America (one gets the feeling #1 and #2 didn’t want Mann to name their own companies) discovered his superiors were actually adding nicotine to the secret cigarette formula to get their customers even more addicted, and when he found out and questioned said superiors about it, he was canned. Now he’s trying to start over again as a teacher and also wants to get his story out to the public. Between him and the redemption of confessing the nicotine sins to the public stands 60 Minutes producer Lowell Bergman (Al Pacino), who wants Weigand’s story told because he genuinely feels the public needs to know about it. He’s thwarted in his efforts, however, by the CBS brass, who feel that airing the story leaves them open to a multibillion dollar lawsuit. What follows is a riveting – if a little exploitive – struggle between the Lords of Journalism and the Business Gods over one man’s tale.

Crowe, who put on considerable weight to play the middle-aged Weigand, does an admirable job in the lead, although certainly his is not a terribly complex character. He received an Oscar nomination for his work here, and as a viewer you do get a sense of his situation. He’s torn between doing what he knows to be right for many people and playing it safe for the sake of his family. The will-he-or-won’t-he question doesn’t linger on, however, since everyone and his mother should know the outcome of this story.

As Lowell Bergman, Pacino takes on a role that’s a little foreign and a little familiar to him. Pacino does seem to like the role of the underdog (Serpico, Dog Day Afternoon), but he also likes the characters who are in charge, who know what they’re doing, and who have all the answers (Godfather, Sea of Love, Scent of a Woman). Luckily for all of us, Big Al’s no slouch as an adaptive thespian, and he melts into the role rather nicely. Watching Pacino’s big eyes light up when he’s blasting the CBS bosses for their business leanings is worth the price of admission right there.

PROS: Pacino, Crowe, direction, true-story angle

CONS: Length – long damn movie!, broadly written supporting characters

The Insider: 7

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2 Responses to “11 – The Insider”

  1. joey_g Says:

    good post – filled my coffee break

  2. Reveal Me The Secret Says:

    Very interesting post there! Keep-up the great work…

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