Volume 93, Issue 39

Tuesday, November 9, 1999


Insider's heat cools by the last drag

Travels With My Aunt fails to go anywhere

Allstars jump Right Back into it

Insider's heat cools by the last drag

Photo by Frank Connor
IT NEVER OCCURRED TO JEFF AND LOWELL THAT STARING CONTESTS ARE MORE FUN WHEN YOU FACE EACH OTHER. Russell Crowe and Al Pacino deadpan their way through the drawn out film, The Insider.

By Chad Finkelstein
Gazette Staff

First things first – three hours. Why?

Along with a slew of other filmmakers today, the ones behind The Insider obviously haven't realized that to make an effective statement, a film's length does not have to parallel a drive to Detroit. This movie isn't painful in itself – it's even commendable, but it just never seemed to end.

Overall, The Insider is a well made movie. It seems unfair to criticize it solely for length, but it begins with such intensity and vigor that when it finally climaxes and appears to be in the midst of wrapping up - it's disappointing to see it drag on for another hour.

The film focuses on the true story of what many consider the biggest American public health issue of the century. Jeff Wigand (Russell Crowe) has discovered a terrible secret regarding his tobacco company's product that is quite hazardous to the oblivious public.

Upon learning this secret, he is immediately fired and sworn to complete confidentiality. The show 60 Minutes gets a hold of a very minimal lead into this scandal and its top producer, Lowell Bergman (Al Pacino), begins to infiltrate Jeff's life to learn the truth.

At first skeptical, Jeff soon realizes the severity of what he knows and slowly begins to reveal himself. Instantly, he becomes subject to public scrutiny, lawsuits surrounding his confidentiality pact and death threats against him and his family.

Eventually, the movie steps away from the issue of corporate corruption and concentrates on CBS's attempt to avoid controversy by disallowing 60 Minutes to air the crucial segment. This infuriates Lowell and cripples Jeff, as he has sacrificed his livelihood to unravel the secret for the public's benefit.

At this point, The Insider develops more themes about truth and integrity than it can contain. The movie almost explodes with a flurry of lessons on morality and justice.

All in all, The Insider is structured quite effectively. Some of the cinematography is mind-blowing, but instead of adding to the story as a whole, these scenes look like an opportunity for the filmmakers to show off.

Pacino gives a relatively solid performance, though lately his roles are generic enough that audiences can predict his every move and emotion. Crowe also delivers a convincing performance as the strong-but-crumbling protagonist who was in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Christopher Plummer, however, gives an uncomfortable and unflattering portrayal of 60 Minutes anchor Mike Wallace, playing the part with a sense of Godliness over the rest of the cast.

As well, the power of music never ceases to amaze. The soundtrack, which includes cryptic wails, deep symphony or a complete absence of sound, commands the scenes and steers the audience's feelings in any direction it wants to.

A bold soundtrack, a stellar cast, an important message, but three hours? Not necessary.

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Copyright The Gazette 1999