In 1999, Michael Mann crafted one of the most captivating, tightly woven, and intense films of the last twenty years. That film is ‘The Insider’, which dares to ask how far would you go to make the truth known? And just how far is one industry going to go to make sure that person is never heard? Based on the incredible true story of Jeffery Wigand, with the aide of ’60 Minutes’ producer Lowell Bergman, aims to finally show the world the true colors of the Tobacco industry, while they form one of the greatest smear campaigns in our history, aimed at destroying Jeffery’s life. The film was nominated for seven Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Actor, and may be Mann’s strongest film as a filmmaker.
‘The Insider’ is one of those films that once it sinks its claws into you, it never lets go. Clocking in at 2 hours and 40 minutes, there’s not a moment that goes by the doesn’t keep you on the edge of your seat. That alone speaks volumes about just how well Michael Mann put this film together. Written by Mann and Eric Roth, the duo manage to put together a script that manages to be so incredibly gripping, even if we know the outcome of the story before it starts. The characters are so fully fleshed out and well written that, even with them being real people, they come off as some of the most real people I’ve ever seen on film. Part of that comes from the actors, who full delved into this characters and brought them to life. Russell Crowe is excellent as Jeffery Wigand, a mild mannered family man who has a small anger problem, but would do anything to protect his family. When asked the impossible by Pacino’s Lowell Bergman, to stand toe-to-toe with big Tobacco and bring the truth forward from what he knows, you can feel the anguish and pain that Wigand is feeling. Crowe is so believable in the role, and it’s impossible not to feel for him and just want to see his life get turned around. This may be one of his best performances of his entire career, which could probably be attributed to Mann pushing him in the role. Crowe is so good, in fact, that he was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actor in a lead role.
That’s not the only solid performance in the film though, because Mann manages to get Pacino’s last great film performance for almost a decade in this film as Lowell Bergman. Pacino’s career has been incredibly hit or miss as of late, and sometimes it’s easy to forget just how mesmerizing he can in roles when he likes the material and he’s pushed to his personal best. He completely embodies Bergman, really bringing him to life. You can feel the tension in his life, as everything around him starts ripping at the seams, as he tries to hold everything together, hoping it doesn’t snap, and Pacino absolutely nails it. The best scene in the entire film is a scene where Pacino’s Bergman and character actor Phillip Baker Hall, who plays Don Hewitt, get in a fight over the editing of his segment so he doesn’t air the interview with Wigland. The scene is so tense, and you can just watch as the entire rug is pulled straight out from Bergman’s feet, turning his whole world upside down. He no longer is in control of not only his life, but Wigand’s as well, and that’s a terrifying thought for him. Pacino’s performance really rivals Crowe’s, so it’s surprising to see he wasn’t nominated for his role in the film, because it was absolutely deserved.
One must not forgot Christopher Plummer’s role in the film as ’60 Minutes’ correspondent Mike Wallace. Plummer is really just excellent in everything he’s in, and here he’s no different. His performance as Wallace, an older and more seasoned veteran of the news world is so good in the role, he steals almost every scene he’s in, no matter who he’s acting against. It’s impossible to top Plummer when he puts his all into a film, and this just proves that.
It’s never easy to say when a great filmmaker makes their best film, but in the case of Michael Mann, it’s easy to see that ‘The Insider’ would fall into that category for him. Mann makes films that are usually very personal and close to him, making him turn out good to great films that are all labors of love. ‘The Insider’ really seems like it may be his strongest film though, because it’s a film that has something to say. While he may dramatize some of the events of the film, you never care, because you’re so captivated by the story that Mann has managed to weave and the performances that he’s gotten out of the actors. On top of that, there’s not a single action scene in the entire film, and Mann is known for his many action films, so that speaks for how well this movie holds up alone.
A movie like this deserves the best sort of treatment, so it’s good to see that Disney has given ‘The Insider’ an excellent blu-ray release. The film is sporting an excellent high definition transfer which makes the movie look like new. The movie really hasn’t looked this good, and while not the most perfect transfer, it’s still very strong. Fine detail is noticeable throughout, and colors pop well when they should, while the blacks don’t bleed and look crisp and dark. It’s a really great looking transfer, making this already great looking film look even better. Thankfully, this blu-ray isn’t a barebones release either, as we’re given a really great audio interview between Al Pacino and Russell Crowe, where they talk about the making of the film, sharing tidbits about the making of the film, among so much more.
‘The Insider’ may be over a decade old, but it’s still one of the most intense and well made movies in recent memory, holding up just as well now as it did when it came out. Featuring an excellent cast, a great script, and absolutely perfect direction, the film is one that should be added to everyone’s collection. If you’re a fan of thrillers, or any of the actors involved, this film can’t come more highly recommended. The disc comes sporting an outstanding transfer and fun and interesting commentary track, it’s definitely worth a spot on every cinephile’s shelf.
- ‘The Insider’ Comes to Blu-ray on February 19, 2013 (chipandco.com)
- Disney Bluray & DVD Schedule for 2013 (chipandco.com)