The Insider Blu-ray Review
Russell Crowe may have won an Oscar in 2000 for GLADIATOR and then nominated again in 2001 for A BEAUTIFUL MIND, but in my opinion, his most impressive role was that of Jeffrey Wigand in 1999’s THE INSIDER. Aided greatly by Michael Mann’s trademarked stylish direction, THE INSIDER is a wonderful film that eats at you long after you watch it. It’s scary to think about how much power huge corporations have in America these days and even scarier when those corporations make a product that is dangerous for consumers.
THE INSIDER is an uncomfortably disturbing tale of what happens to people when they mix moral judgment with their profession. Anyone that has ever worked for a Fortune 500 company knows that there are things going on that push the boundaries of morality, but most of us never ascend to the level where our voice matters. In Jeffrey Wigand’s case, he was a top engineer for a big tobacco company and when he realized the company was willingly and knowingly making a dangerous product (and lying about it to the public), he voiced his concerns to his superiors and got fired for it. He was content taking the severance package and moving on, but when his company started threatening him and his family, he decided to tell his story to Lowell Bergman. Bergman was a producer at 60 Minutes and coached Wigand through the process. Of course, big tobacco was not pleased with Wigand’s decision and they did everything they could to stop the story from airing.
Maybe the greatest achievement on the part of Michael Mann was keeping this story as factual as possible. Mann made a lot of decisions to tell this story realistically, even shooting certain scenes in the places they happened, such as the Mississippi court house and the house of Richard Scruggs (played by Colm Feore). Those little details (and many others) gave a realism to the film that if you weren’t familiar with the story, you would swear was exaggerated for dramatic effect.
THE INSIDER also features a great turn from Al Pacino, who for a brief moment managed to forget to yell uncontrollably at the screen and actually went back to acting. He’s one of the greatest actors to ever live and carries his part of the film effectively. But the film belongs to Russell Crowe, who has the unenviable task of portraying a conflicted, angst-driven character without a whole lot of dialogue. That makes everything he says much more important and Crowe delivers every line perfectly. What’s more amazing is his ability to carry a scene with his mannerisms and facial expressions that remind the audience Wigand is a normal guy and not some heartless traitor or fearless martyr. Wigand is everyone that has ever stood up for something they believe in and only an actor at the top of his game, like Russell Crowe in 1999, could pull it off.
THE INSIDER could have easily been a mundane, straightforward drama without much substance. But Michael Mann’s stylish directing and Russell Crowe’s incredible performance catapulted this film into one of the best movies in 1999, even picking up an Oscar nomination for Best Picture (back when there were only five nominees). It stands the test of time very well and is just as powerful today as it was when the events actually happened.
Video: Michael Mann makes traditionally dark films and they never really got their due on DVD, making some of them (COLLATERAL, for example) almost difficult to watch on the format. Thankfully, Blu-ray makes that a moot point and Mann’s dark colors and lack of lighting are actually highlighted on Blu-ray and the film looks amazing.
Audio: The audio track for THE INSIDER is equally impressive, showcasing the dialogue by using a front-heavy mix. Normally this would be a problem, but for THE INSIDER, it works well.
Making of The Insider (6:58): This is too short to be of any notice and only makes me long for a more detailed commentary or featurtte.