The Insider

The Insider (1999)
Buena Vista Home Entertainment
Cast: Russell Crowe, Al Pacino, Christopher Plummer
Extras: Theatrical Trailer, Featurette ’Inside a Scene’

Michael Mann’s ’The Insider’ is a powerful drama which explores the struggle of two men fighting a corporate giant. Mann abandons his trademark action sequences and gives the film its own unique style.
Russell Crowe plays Dr. Jeffery Wigand, a former executive with the Brown-Williamson tobacco company. Wigand is approached by Lowell Bergman (Al Pacino), a producer for ’60 Minutes’ to be a consultant on a story about cigarettes and fires. But, after they meet, Bergman realizes that Wigand is sitting on a much bigger story — details about how the big tobacco companies view the addictive nature of cigarettes. Bergman convinces Wigand that his story needs to be told. But, they soon learn that Brown-Williamson won’t go down without a fight. As Wigand receives death threats and gag orders, both men must fight to save their reputations and their families.

The film features great performances by its cast, most notably the Oscar nominated Russell Crowe and Christopher Plummer’s dead-on take as Mike Wallace. Also, Mann uses his camerawork to help convey the suspense and power of the story. Through tight close-ups and shots where the camera can’t seem to sit still, Mann keeps the viewer on edge as we learn Wigand’s secrets and watch him fight for his existence. My only complaint about the film is the pacing drags at times, but not as badly as in Mann’s over-rated ’Heat.’ ’The Insider’ is a well-made drama, which shows a great deal of talent and tells a very important story.

The Buena Vista Home Video DVD of ’The Insider’ features an anamorphic transfer of the film, which is letterboxed at 2.35:1. The picture is very clear and the very important color balancing appears to be correct. Mann bathes his scenes in various shades of blue, and this comes across beautifully on the DVD. The picture shows no grain or signs of artifacting. The audio on the DVD is a Dolby Digital 5.1 mix that sounds very good. You’ll swear that those damn Mississippi crickets are in the room with you! The DVD packaging promises a ’Production Featurette — Audio Commentary with Al Pacino and Russell Crowe’. This poorly labeled feature is simply a short featurette. There is no audio commentary on the DVD! The theatrical trailer is included and is letterboxed at 1.85:1. There is also a feature called ’Inside a Scene’, where we get to see how a scene was scripted, Michael Mann’s personal notes, and then the finished scene. It would have been nice if the DVD could’ve featured further details on Dr. Wigand’s real life and even the actual ’60 Minutes’ episode.