>>> Click here for the RMC FAQ'N RULES <<<


Your Random Movie Club Results Are In!

Tagline: Warning: Exposing the Truth May Be Hazardous

Preshow Entertainment: None

Pizza: Joe Peeps



The first image we see in THE INSIDER (1999) is of something unrecognizable, but after a slight pull-back, we see it’s a burlap blindfold. It’s the kind they pull over your head when your kidnapper doesn’t want you to see where you’re going. I imagine the first line of the script was:

ECU – Burlap (Abductee’s POV)

It’s a fine metaphor; the Big Tobacco companies know cigarettes are addictive and carcinogenic while covering their lies. What’s just so silly is that not only did they know they were lying at the congressional hearings in 1994, but we knew it, too. Just like four years later, when we knew Clinton did indeed have sexual relations with that woman.

The abducted person here is being driven though the chaotic streets of Lebanon. He can only hear sounds; the chimes dangling from the rear view mirror, the kids laughing in the streets, the cars honking incessantly. He can smell incense wafting in the street. It’s a great opening sequence, vibrant and suspenseful. Actually, the whole movie is captivating. Shit, even the trailer is compelling. Like one of my favorite movies, ALL THE PRESIDENT’S MEN, once you’re on board, it’s hard to turn away.


Sure, THE INSIDER is a terrific investigative thriller, but putting aside the whistleblower vs. Big Tobacco, it’s really the story of two men...two similar men, and how they will both be torn apart by the truth. One of the men is 60 MINUTES producer Lowell Bergman (Al Pacino). He’s the one under the mask on his way to get Hezbollah’s spiritual leader Mohammad Hussein Fadlallah to consent to an interview with Mike Wallace. It’s risky, but it tells us what 60 MINUTES, and specifically Lowell, is made of - a man who wants to get the story no matter what the circumstances. A man who will not take no for an answer. And a man who, as we will learn, has never lied to someone to get that story. He tells the sheik “You know our reputation for integrity and objectivity… We are the highest rated, most respected TV news show in America.” The table is set.

The follow-up interview scene also illustrates 60 MINUTES’s inability to back away…or better - back down…from their journalistic integrity and, let’s face it, power. This occurs when Mike Wallace, played stunningly by Christopher Plummer (who, if you close your eyes, sounds exactly like Wallace), verbally spars with the sheik’s bodyguard.

Here comes our second protagonist (Big Tobacco is the antagonist here). He’s Jeffrey Wigand (Russell Crowe). At work, while others are rejoicing, having cake, celebrating, Wigand is exiting the premises by himself. It’s so quiet that his footsteps could wake the dead. At home, he bypasses announcing his arrival to wifey, opting to knock one back. Something’s troubling him. Must have something to do with that box of belongings he left work with. Left work for the last time. Up until today, he was the VP of R & D at Brown & Williamson. So why did he leave? Because they wouldn’t remove a carcinogen known to cause lung cancer, and also because they were “impact boosting” (modifying their cigarettes with additives, you know, in case cigarettes weren’t addictive enough).

Lowell and Wigand live separate lives. Lowell lives with his son, his wife Sharon, and her son (yup, that’s a flash of Breckin Meyer you just saw). It’s a frenetic household, with both parents on their phones before they get out of bed. Wigand’s married with two children, one of whom needs constant medical attention because of her asthma, her difficulty with breathing. I think her name is Irony.

Lowell stumbles on the Big Tobacco story accidentally, through an unrelated story about tobacco companies. But he’s got a producer’s nose, and tries to goose the embittered Wigand into talking without breaking his confidentiality agreement. Wigand remains silent. Aside from possible fines and jail time, breaking the agreement means losing his insurance, and he can’t afford the medical upkeep of his asthmatic daughter without it. At first I thought this was a contrived plot point, but I think it’s true. Ironically, and as it is with so many real life situations that play with emotions, it’s Tobacco’s despotic intimidation of Wigand, specifically his not breaking their confidentiality agreement, that gets him to talk. Don’t push a man who doesn’t like to be pushed.


What follows is a series of conflicts; Wigand vs. his conscience, Wigand vs. his wife, Wigand vs. Bergman, Bergman vs. Wallace, Bergman vs. 60 MINUTES big cheese Don Hewitt, who sided with CBS, throwing Lowell under the bus.

And if that’s not enough, another demon appears about 3/5ths of the way through the movie. Why is CBS, which prides itself on running controversial stories of “integrity and objectivity,” demanding parts of the Wigand story be cut? What are they so afraid of? Well, I’ll tell you what. CBS (Lawrence Tisch CEO) is afraid that a multi-billion dollar lawsuit will jeopardize CBS’s impending sale to Westinghouse, that’s what. Not included in the movie is the fact that one of Tisch’s many companies is the Lorillard Tobacco Company, the Four of the Big Four Tobacco companies, and represented by Tisch’s son Andrew, who said under oath, when asked if cigarettes cause cancer: “I do not believe that.” How’s that for investigative reporting, yo?

Now Lowell is in the same position as Jeffrey - victimized by someone who said one thing, then did another. And now it's Lowell who finds himself in Jeff's position - what do I do? Like Wigand earlier on, Lowell needs to do something, but he can't. He's "run out of moves." Or has he?

I can’t recommend THE INSIDER enough. Thanks to director Michael Mann’s cinema verite approach along with his (and Eric Roth’s) meaty script, this movie does it the way it should be done. Mann keeps Wigand (and us) in a state of paranoia from the very beginning when Wigand exits the office for the first time and Security says something we don’t get to hear. And that creepy night golfing scene where Wigand is the only one at the driving range until he notices another man swinging his club…while wearing a suit. And that hotel room scene! Where Wigand and Bergman meet for the first time. It’s all subtext…and it’s brilliantly written and played. Without saying a word, they both know what the other guy is thinking.

Bruce McGill as Ron Motley

THE INSIDER can also brag about its outstanding acting all around, like Michael Gambon as Brown & Williamson honcho Sandefur, and Bruce McGill, who plays attorney Ron Motley. At first I thought McGill was a weak link, but wow – he was just saving it up for a tour-de-force courtroom outburst that made me think, If I ever meet Bruce McGill, I do not want to get him mad. And don’t think it’s limited to McGill. Don’t cross Christopher Plummer either. Just ask Gina Gershon and Steve Tobolowski, who both got new ones ripped by Captain Von Trapp.

And then there’s Al Pacino, who a lot of folks gave up on after movies like GIGLI, 88 MINUTES and RIGHTEOUS KILL, (I suppose his cameo in Adam Sandler’s JACK & JILL didn’t help either). You watch him in THE INSIDER, and you remember his Serpico and Corleone and even the bombastic Tony Montana. And acting...you remember great acting. He’s pretty amazing here. A perfect role for a man who can overact and underact. Case in point; maybe it was Mann’s directing or Pacino’s choice, or both, but Bergman’s response to Mike Wallace informing him that he’s siding with Don Hewitt is - silence. Yes, instead of “the whole courtroom’s out of order!” we get twenty seconds of silence. And it’s effective as all hell.

Everyone wants to throw punches at Russell Crowe, but the truth is he’s a pretty great actor. Wigand’s inner torture is not just expressed in his words (when pushed, he can’t stop himself from talking) but also in his physicality; his nervous tics, some subtle (quivering speech) and some not (pushing his glasses up his nose when nervous…I have a friend who does that too). We watch him unraveling till there’s very little thread left. And I’ll be darned, during this two hour and thirty-seven minute movie, if his hair hasn’t gone greyer and eyes more wrinkly.




Towards the end, as Wigand’s breaking down, Bergman himself questions his own importance to 60 MINUTES and journalism. But when all is said and more-than-all is done, it’s his wife Sharon (Lindsay Crouse) that, while giving him advice, tells us the advice of the whole story – “Really know what you’re gonna do before you do it.” Wouldn’t it be great if we could all do that? I should have listened to that very advice. Do you know how much time it takes to do all these write-ups?

Here’s a snippet on Big Tobacco that I love, not from THE INSIDER, but from BOSTON LEGAL. Kicks into high gear about a minute in. Please watch: http://goo.gl/jB7leV

You can follow the real Jeff Wigand on Twitter: @Jeffrey_Wigand

You can follow me here: @RichNathanson

Feed Burner Subscribe in a reader

Powered byFeedBlitz

About ...

RMC email address
Old RMC Men

RMC is not affiliated with Rochester Midland Corporation, makers of fine restroom disinfecting fluids and urinal mats since 1888.


Powered by Pizza, Red Vines,
& 6 Different Kinds of Soda



This is a Flickr badge showing public photos from Random Movie Club. Make your own badge here.

((( Contribute to our Popcorn Fund! )))

Best Viewed With Firefox 2

Add to Google
Add to My Yahoo!
Add to Technorati Favorites!

eXTReMe Tracker