The Insider (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)
February 16, 2013 by Dennis Amith
“The Insider” is still a relevant and compelling film as it was back in 1999, now in 2013. From wonderful direction, writing and amazing performances, this is one film that will remain a classic for generations to come. Highly recommended!
TITLE: The Insider
FILM RELEASE: 1999
DURATION: 157 Minutes
BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition,1:78:1, English 5.1 DTS-HD MA, Espanol Dolby Digital 5.1, Subtitles: English, English SDH and Espanol
COMPANY: Touchstone Entertainment
RATED: R (For Language)
Release Date: February 19, 2013
Directed by Michael Mann
Based on the article “The Man Who Knew Too Much” by Marie Brenner
Written by Eric Roth and Michael Mann
Produced by Pieter Jan Brugge, Michael Mann
Associate Producer: Gusmano Cesaretti, Kathleen M. Shea
Co-Producer: Michael Waxman
Music by Pieter Bourke, Lisa Gerrard
Cinematography by Dante Spinotti
Edited by William Goldenberg, David Rosenbloom, Paul Rubell
Casting by Bonnie Timmermann
Production Design by Brian Morris
Art Direction by Margie Stone McShirley
Costume Design by Anna B. Sheppard
Al Pacino as Lowell Bergman
Russell Crowe as Jeffrey Wigand
Christopher Plummer as Mike Wallace
Diane Venora as Liane Wigand
Philip Baker Hall as Don Hewitt
Lindsay Crouse as Sharon Tiller
Debi Mazar as Debbie De Luca
Gina Gershon as Helen Caperelli
THE INSIDER recounts the chain of events that pitted an ordinary man against the tobacco industry and dragged two people into the fight of their lives. Academy Award®-winner Al Pacino (1992 Best Actor for Scent of a Woman) gives a powerful performance as veteran 60 Minutes producer Lowell Bergman and Academy Award® winner Russell Crowe (2000 Best Actor for Gladiator) co-stars as the ultimate insider, former tobacco executive Dr. Jeffrey Wigand. When Wigand is fired by his employer — one of the largest tobacco companies in America — he agrees to become a paid consultant for a story Bergman is working on regarding alleged unethical practices within the tobacco industry. But what begins as a temporary alliance leads to a lengthy battle for both men to save their reputations, and much, much more. As they soon find out, Corporate America will use all legal means at its disposal to save a billion-dollar-a-year habit. And as the corporate giants soon find out, Bergman and Wigand are honorable men, driven to smoke out the evidence. Also starring Academy Award®-winner Christopher Plummer (2011 Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role for Beginners) as anchor Mike Wallace and Gina Gershon, THE INSIDER will chill you with its cold, hard edge — and thrill you with its unbelievable twists and turns.
It was the critically acclaimed film of 1999 and a film that would jumpstart the career of filmmaker Michael Mann (“Heat”, “The Last of the Mohicans”, “Miami Vice”, “Ali”, “Public Enemies”, “Collateral”).
“The Insider”which starred Al Pacino (“The Godfather” films, “Scarface”, “Heat”), Russell Crowe (“L.A. Confidential”, “Gladiator”, “3:10 to Yuma”) and Christopher Plummer (“A Beautiful Mind”, “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”, “Syriana”), was a story that was inspired by a Vanity Fair article titled “The Man Who Knew Too Much” written by Marie Brenner and adapted into a screenplay by Eric Roth (“The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”, “Forrest Gump”, “Munich”) and Michael Mann.
Back when Michael Mann was working on the film “Heat”, when he was contacted by his friend Lowell Bergman, a producer at “60 Minutes” who was going through major challenges in his life but as the two kept in touch over the years, Mann would eventually conceive a story about the central figure that Bergman and “60 Minutes” was working on and that is the whistleblower Jeffrey Wigan who revealed that cigarette companies manipulated the tobacco to increase the amount of nicotine in cigarette smoke (which enhances the addictive and pleasurable effects of cigarette smoking).
While the film was not a big success in the box office, the film received critical praise for its story and the performance of its cast. Earning many awards for Christopher Plummer and Russell Crowe and also being nominated for 7 Academy Awards, including Best Picture.
The film has been released on DVD and now will be released on Blu-ray in Feb. 2013.
“The Insider” introduces us to CBS show’s “60 Minutes” producer Lowell Bergman (portrayed by Al Pacino), a man who stands by his convictions and works closely with interviewer Mike Wallace (portrayed by Christopher Plummer). We watch as the two try to get interviews with Hezbollah militants in Lebanon and how these two risk their lives for the sake of journalism and getting the truth.
Meanwhile, in Louisville, Kentucky, Jeffrey Wigand (portrayed by Russell Crowe), the vice president of research and development at the Tobacco Company Brown & Williamson, has been fired from his job. He breaks the news to his wife Liane (portrayed by Diane Venora) that he has lost his job, and she begins stressing about house payments, insurance and is devastated.
Back at home in the U.S., Lowell receives a package from an anonymous source featuring documents relating to the tobacco company Philip Morris. Not knowing what these documents mean, he asks his friend at the Food and Drug Administration, who can translate this material and he is recommended to contact Wigand.
Lowell first faxes Wigand but he is not interested. But he eventually meets up with Lowell at a hotel room and reads the books that Lowell received and tells Lowell that he can’t really say anything because he has a confidentiality agreement with his company, and despite no longer working there, he still is receiving benefits.
Not long after, Brown & Williamson’s CEO Thomas Sandefur calls in Jeffrey Wigand to meet with him and his attorney and they bring up the confidentiality agreement and want him to sign an expanded version. They threaten him that if he doesn’t sign it, they will strip him of all severance pay, medical benefits and pursue legal action against him.
Not knowing why they did they would contact him for this, Wigand is upset and contacts Lowell Bergman, accusing him of treachery. But Lowell tells him that as a journalism, why would he reveal his source and what good would it do for him to hurt his main contact.
Upset about what has taken place, Bergman goes to Louisville to meet with Bergman and tells Wigand that he did not reveal anything to his previous employer. Believing him, Wigand then discusses with Lowell about teh seven CEO’s of “Big Tobacco” and how they perjured themselves to the United States Congress about their awareness of nicotine addictiveness. His role in research and development was to manipulate the nicotine and make it addictive to users. Knowing the dangers, he asks if Wigand is interested in speaking to “60 Minutes” and become a whistleblower, Wigand agrees.
The problem that Lowell must face now is to use CBS’s legal team to find out how they can sidestep Jeffrey’s confidentiality agreement. They realize that if Wigand is compelled to speak through a court order from an unrelated sate litigation against Big Tobacco in the State of Mississippi in helping to recover Medicare and Medicaid costs from tobacco-related illnesses. This will then in effect give Wigand protection against his former employers.
Meanwhile, Brown & Williamson begins using scare tactics on Jeffrey Wigand for not signing the expanded confidentiality agreement. They send men to follow and taunt him. Once Wigand and his family move to a smaller house, they have people going to his property to scare his family. Even leaving threatening e-mail that they will kill his family and leaving a bullet in his mailbox.
After seeing how far the Big Tobacco company will go in order to scare Wigand, Lowell and Mike Wallace and the team are able to interview Wigand. Meanwhile, the Wigand’s try to continue with their lives. Jeffrey is able to get a job at a high school as a science teacher, but his wife is becoming unnerved when hired guards are sent to watch over the family.
But as Wigand sacrifices his life and his family’s privacy to become a whistleblower, the sacrifice for Wigand appears to be too much as his wife can no longer stay with him because of what has happened, but the biggest blow comes to him when Lowell Bergman finds out that if CBS airs the “60 Minutes” episode interviewing Wigand, they will be sued (as part of tortious interference) and so detrimental that the company can be bought out by a Big Tobacco company. So, CBS execs do not want to air the piece or if they do, it has to be edited down significantly.
As Lowell continues to dig of why CBS would try to prevent him from airing the show, he finds out that CBS was involved in a merger with Westinghouse. But as he tries to fight his supervisor and defend the integrity of “60 Minutes” and why the original version of the interview with Wigand wouuld air, the final blow comes to Lowell when his news partner and good friend, Mike Wallace chooses to be on the side of CBS and air the edited version of the interview.
Jeffrey hears the bad news from Lowell and feels that he was screwed. He sacrificed everything because of his belief that his interview would air on “60 Minutes” and for it not to air, he doesn’t know if he can continue to live.
But the bitterness that Lowell had tasted for the first time in his career, it’s something that doesn’t sit well with Lowell. The fact that CBS, for the first time, is dictating how the show should be run, it upsets Lowell. Moreso, when Mike Wallace and his friends put themselves in the side of CBS. For the first time, Lowell feels he betrayed the one source throughout his career, who has sacrificed everything. His life and his family. But also feels that the people that he sacrificed his life for the sake of journalism, has betrayed him.
But Lowell Bergman has one final effort in order to get the “60 Minutes” piece to air on television but will it work?
“The Insider” is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:39:1 aspect ratio). For this 1999 film, “The Insider” continues to look fantastic, moreso in HD. Picture quality reveals amazing detail in closeups, the cinematography by Dante Spinotti and the editing for the film is amazingly done. Colors are rich, skin tones are natural, black levels are nice and deep. I didn’t see any signs of excessive DNR, the film looks very good on Blu-ray.
AUDIO & SUBTITLES:
“The Insider” is a film that is presented in English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, French 5.1 Dolby Digital and Spanish 2.0 Dolby Digital. The lossless soundtrack is dialogue driven and dialogue is crystal clear. This is a type of film that didn’t really need to utilize the surround channels, but it does a little in scenes showcasing crowd ambience. But for the most part, the lossless soundtrack is adequate for this type of film.
Subtitles are in English SDH, French and Spanish.
“The Insider” come with the following special features:
- Production Featurette – (7:05) Featuring a production featurette with the real Lowell Bergman and Jeffrey Wigand with commentary by Al Pacino and Russell Crowe.
- Theatrical Trailer – (2:33) The original theatrical trailer for “The Insider”.
NOTE: While the rear info. shows a “Inside a Scene” which was featured in the original 2000 DVD, it is not included on this Blu-ray.
“The Insider” is one of the most riveting and intelligent films that was released in theaters back in 1999. I absolutely loved the film as it really gave viewers a chance to see how far Big Tobacco companies would go, to intimidate former employees who went against the confidentiality agreement. But also, how much control these companies have over media.
CBS’ “60 Minutes” is a respectable news show, heavy hitting questions from Mike Wallace, able to get the interviews before their news counterparts for other networks. It was a shock to the public to find out that they would not air a program in fear of a lawsuit. Especially when their obligation was to feature important news and in this case, had Jeffrey Wigand, VP of Research and Development, who knew the secrets that went on behind-the-scenes for the Big Tobacco companies in regards to Nicotine addictiveness.
Big Tobacco companies go as far to halt the original interview and prevent CBS from airing it, but what I loved about this film is how Lowell Bergman was able to orchestrate, out of desperation, to sacrifice his career in order to get this show broadcasted by using his journalists contacts for major newspapers to come to bat for him. And literally an orchestration that would shock America.
And the end result of this situation is 46 states filing a medicaid suit against the tobacco industry and leading to a historic $368 billion settlement in health-related damages by the tobacco companies.
And in 2013, the events featured on “The Insider” and what took place many years ago is still relevant. In November 2012, a Federal Judge Gladys Kessler ordered that tobacco companies publicly admit through advertisements and package warnings that they deceived American consumers for decades about the dangers of smoking.
As for the Blu-ray release, “The Insider” benefits with its amazing detail courtesy of its HD release and crisper lossless audio. Special features remain the same, albeit the missing “Inside a Scene” which was relevant in 2000, not so much today. So, despite it being listed on the back, it’s not included on this Blu-ray release. But the film looks and sounds so much better than the original 2000 DVD.
What transpired in “The Insider” was quite historic in many levels but how things played out behind-the-scenes, it’s incredible just to even fathom how this was all orchestrated.
While a fantastic film with wonderful direction, writing and excellent performances by Al Pacino, Russell Crowe and Christopher Plummer, unfortunately 1999 was one a competitive year for American cinema as films such as “American Beauty”, “Cider House Rules”, “Being John Malkovich”, “Magnolia”, “The Sixth Sense” and “The Green Mile” were all in the running for various award categories.
If there was any major fault of the film, it’s how various people were portrayed. In an article from the Observer and also other news reports, Mike Wallace and “60 Minutes” executive producer Don Hewitt was misrepresented, that the two actually fought hard for the interview to air and did not cave to CBS’ demands that easily. As for how far Big Tobacco would go to intimidate a man, the F.B.I. has suggested that Wigand orchestrated the threatening e-mail message and the bullet in the mailbox.
“The Insider” is still a relevant and compelling film as it was back in 1999, now in 2013. From wonderful direction, writing and amazing performances, this is one film that will remain a classic for generations to come. Despite how people may have been misrepresented in the film and how situations were dramatized, I think that Roger Ebert said it best in his review of the film back in 1999, “There is, I admit, a contradiction in a film about journalism that itself manipulates the facts. My notion has always been that movies are not the first place you look for facts, anyway. You attend a movie for psychological truth, for emotion, for the heart of a story and not its footnotes.”
But there is no disputing the facts of what Big Tobacco companies tried to hide, one man exposing the truth, a man doing all he can to get his piece to air on television and news that would shock the world. “The Insider” is effective when displaying those facts. So much negative can be said with today’s journalism and in its integrity during this social media age, but to have a film in which journalism brought out a greater good in its effort to bring out the truth about Big Tobacco companies is intriguing and incredible. And it’s what makes “The Insider” so fascinating!
“The Insider” on Blu-ray is recommended!
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