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Russell Crowe. Click here
Russell Crowe, Al Pacino team up for the true story
of a man who risked everything to fight big tobacco

"The Insider"

Reviewed by Carlos deVillalvilla

(Click on the images to see larger version and credits. All photos are İTouchstone Pictures.)

On one level, this movie could be taken as the story of Dr. Jeffrey Wigand, the corporate whistleblower who braved much external pressure, death threats, the dissolution of his family and the pangs of his own conscience to step forward and point the finger at Big Tobacco, making the recent lawsuits against them possible.

Al Pacino. Click hereOn another level, this movie could be taken as the story of Lowell Bergman, the courageous producer who brought Wigand's story to "60 Minutes," and how he fought to air the story.


Besides the usual program features (language, settings, director commentary, etc.) there is a making-of featurette that includes commentary from the real Wigand and Bergman, and an assortment of deleted scenes.


But what "The Insider" is really about is how big corporations ... Big Tobacco or Big Media ... insidiously run our lives, determine what we see on the news, decide what we are allowed to say or not say. It illustrates, in a very subtle manner, how Orwellian our country really has become, and right under our very noses.

Russell Crowe stars in an Oscar-nominated performance as Wigand, a high-ranking scientest and corporate executive at a major tobacco company whose conscience and temper have recently gotten him fired. He has a daughter with a severe asthsmatic condition, so medical benefits are paramount to him. His former employer is willing to keep those benefits in place as long as Wigand signs a confidentiality agreement, which Wigand does ... twice (they choose to broaden the scope of the agreement early on in the film).

Bergman (Al Pacino, excellent as always) is referred to Wigand by a colleague to help him understand some scientific data. Eventually, it becomes clear that Wigand wants to talk ... and Bergman, realizing the enormity of what he has, coaxes him along. Eventually, Wigand testifies in court and does an interview with Mike Wallace on the venerable primetime news program.

Except that CBS corporate doesn't want to air the story. Nervous about possible litigation running into the billions of dollars at a time when the network is on the auction block, they effectively kill the story ... with the blessings of 60 Minutes producer Don Hewett and Wallace.

It is watching the machinations behind the scenes that is almost as fascinating as Wigand's own story, which could have made a movie riveting by itself. The tension that Wigand lives through here is palpable, and when you try to put yourself in his shoes, you only marvel at the man's tenacity. Together, the two stories make for an extremely watchable movie.

With all the '90s buzzwords about corporate culture, we forget that many of the large companies in this nation have no conscience save for the bottom line. "The Insider" is a jolting reminder that all of us are touched in some way by the corporate greed culture that has lingered from the days of the robber barons.

Theater or Video?
A movie about television should best be watched on a television.

DVD at
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See cast, credit and other details about "The Insider" at Internet Movie Data Base.