The Insider

The Skinny

Bud White blows the whistle on Big Tobacco and Michael Corleone runs the show at “60 Minutes”

The Full Review

With The Insider, writer/director Michael Mann treats audiences to a good old-fashioned, gripping drama in the tradition of such films as All the Presidents Men, Network and The China Syndrome. As was the case with those films, The Insider will likely garner several Oscar nominations, including one for best picture, best actor and best supporting actor. The film recounts the gripping story of Jefferey Wigand (Russell Crowe), a former head of R&D at Brown & Williamson, the third largest U.S. tobacco company, and Lowell Bergman (Al Pacino), a producer for “60 Minutes,” who team up in an attempt to expose a major malfeasance occurring within the tobacco industry. It is important to note that while the film is based on a true story, Disney has posted a disclaimer on both the official movie website and at the close of the film that makes it clear that certain events depicted in the film were fictionalized for dramatic effect.

While The Insider runs an impressive 2 hours and 35 minutes, there’s not an ounce of wasted celluloid in this film. This is because Mann deftly handles the recounting of what ultimately amounted to two significant stories: Big Tobacco’s nicotine coverup and the manner in which the CBS News division acquiesced to the desires of CBS corporate in deciding to bury Wigand’s “60 Minutes” tell-all interview.

The riveting screenplay alone, co-written by Mann and Eric Roth, and based on the 1996 Vanity Fair article, “The Man Who Knew Too Much,” by Marie Brenner, makes The Insider worthy of the $9.50 ticket price (NYC prices). But, what makes The Insider an absolute “must-see,” are the terrific performance by the film’s lead actors.

Al Pacino (The Godfather, Heat, Scarface) brings his typical vigor to the part of the driven newsman, Lowell Bergman, who would seemingly risk everything rather than compromise his principles. Christopher Plummer (12 Monkeys, Dreamscape, The Man Who Would Be King) was so convincing as Mike Wallace that one wonders whether the legendary “60 Minutes” anchor himself could have played the part any better. As great as Pacino and Plummer were, it is Russell Crowe (L.A. Confidential, Virtuosity) who deserves the most praise for his powerful and truly convincing performance as the tormented Jeffrey Wigand. Also of note, Gena Gershon (Bound, Showgirls, Cocktail) is perfectly cast (almost too perfectly) as a go-getting senior CBS internal counsel, who naively believes she carries more weight at the network than she actually does. Given the type of character Gershon typically plays in films and on T.V. (think Showgirls, Bound, Snoops), I couldn’t help but assume the character she plays in The Insider must have slept her way up the corporate ladder. This made it so easy to despise her character, which is Mann’s intention.

By: Craig Ettinger


Generally, all 155 minutes.


Too much of Diane Venora (wasn’t great as Wigand’s selfish, disloyal wife) and not enough of Gena Gershon.