The Insider (Mann, 1999)

In terms of civil and constitutional rights, ethics, and just about all other facets of everyday life, compromise can be a dangerous action. Michael Mann explores the consequences of multiple compromises in The Insider, a work of astounding filmmaking prowess that along with Heat, is his finest and most mature work. After being fired from the third largest tobacco company in the United States, scientist Jeffrey Wigand (Russell Crowe) begins to realize how much he has already given up, and what he will have to compromise in the future if he stays silent. He trumps a confidentiality agreement with his old company and becomes the ultimate whistle-blower, telling 60 Minutes the truth about Big Tobacco and cigarette addiction. His family begins receiving death threats and in turn goes through financial hardships, and psychological intimidation. Wigand’s only ally is television producer Lowell Bergman (Al Pacino), their mutual respect for each other shaping the core of Mann’s mosaic. The Insider warrants limitless praise when discussing each and every meticulously placed component, the best and most obvious being Dante Spinotti’s fluid cinematography to the unheralded performance by Crowe. Michael Mann, a filmmaker obsessed with groups, goes out on a limb and lifts his torch to two determined individuals, acting with different interests, but ending up in similar modes of epiphany. The Insider calls attention to the cracks in the relationship between corporations and news, how the former can compromise the other when the really dangerous stories break. This film is even more important now, post 9/11, when the press is often criticized for not asking the hard questions. Michael Mann does, and he brings his patented brilliance for pacing and sense of space to a deeply moving character study and crucial social issue. It’s personal, introverted, consumed by it’s character’s regret, guilt and compromise, and a master class in filmmaking.

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