While not a big winner in the Oscars The Insider deserves to be on your shelf and in your DVD player
Today, the movie going public seems to demand more and better special effects. Explosions, gun fights, space ships are now all possible with computer graphics and the public enjoys them. This is evident by the vast amounts of money these movies bring to the studios. Still, a film has its greatest potential in telling a story, of relating emotion, passion and drama. The Insider is such a movie. No special effects adorn The Insider but talent is more than abundant in it.
The Insider is about a man, Jeffrey Wigand (Russell Crowe) that used to work for a large tobacco company. He was fired for having a moral conscience. He was in a high position in their chemical division and object to the use of substances that would enhance the effects of nicotine. After his release from the company he is bound to a non-disclosure agreement but the need to tell the true emotionally torments him. Enter Lowell Bergman (Al Pacino), producers for the TV show 60 Minutes. Once he learns of Wigand's potential for expository information he courts Wigand to come forward for the show. Big tobacco does not take bad publicity lightly and a campaign of terror is unleashed upon the whistle blower. What follows is a drama of depth, emotional impact and a platform for some of the finest acting ever.
The two main actors of The Insider are incredible in their roles. Russell Crowe earned an Oscar nomination for his portrayal of Jeff Wigand. He displays strength of character that is trying to surface to do the right thing yet he earnestly worries about the safety of his family. His natural Australian accent is masked by his American imitation but the acting talent and strength of the script makes this easy to forgive. The best moments are those where Wigand must transform from a man trying to tell the truth to the concerned father and husband. His part is multifaceted and Crowe is more than up to the challenge. Al Pacino has a more sedate role than exhibited in most of his films. As the producer his paramount concern is his reputation for keeping his word. Pacino displays a strength and inner calm that fit well into the role he presented. I like to judge a movie by the ancillary cast. Here great attention was given to this area. Diane Venora (Wolfen, F/X, Heat) is excellent as the belabored wife of Wigand. She demonstrates her usual understanding of her role and presents it to the audience in a straightforward and sympathetic manner.
Director Michael Mann score big time in The Insider. Like his previous Apcino effort, Heat, Mann creates a picture with every scene. Attention to detail is always present and pulls you into the story. The pace is a bit slow but I feel completely necessary for the story. It does not drag it builds. Block by block the tension mounts not only between the characters but within them as well. His use of camera angles is a bit mundane but comes across rather well. He might consider a different director of photography for his next project. While too much in camera work can detract from a drama The Insider could have appeared to move better had the camera been a more active participant in the film.
The disc is excellent. There is a commentary track featuring Pacino and Crowe. Interesting how the actor’s viewpoint differs from the more typical director’s commentary most of us are accustomed to. The video is fresh, well balanced and clear even in the many dark scenes. The audio is exceptional. The surround speakers provide a realistic ambience to the film. In one scene the now almost mandatory thunderclap rolls from the rear left to the front right. Well done. While not a big winner in the Oscars The Insider deserves to be on your shelf and in your DVD player. No smoking during its viewing!Review by Doug MacLean of hometheaterinfo.com
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