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A research chemist comes under personal and professional attack when he decides to appear in a "60 Minutes" expose on Big Tobacco.
For more about The Insider and the The Insider Blu-ray release, see the The Insider Blu-ray Review published by Kenneth Brown on February 21, 2013 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Director: Michael Mann (I)
Writers: Eric Roth, Michael Mann (I)
Starring: Al Pacino, Russell Crowe, Christopher Plummer, Diane Venora, Philip Baker Hall, Lindsay Crouse
» See full cast & crew
The Insider Blu-ray Review
"Fame has a fifteen-minute half-life. Infamy lasts a little longer."
Reviewed by Kenneth Brown, February 21, 2013
The Times They are a-Changin'. It wasn't so long ago that journalistic integrity was a commodity, corporate interests didn't dictate the news cycle and a show like 60 Minutes was a venerated institution. Alas, 24-Hour News has replaced Evening News' discernible truth with opinion, broad commentary and questionable conjecture. An increasing number of leading journalists no longer adhere to fundamental journalistic principles. Fact is becoming more and more subjective by the minute, as audiences seek out whatever news source will satisfy their particular itch or affirm their personal beliefs. Suddenly, The Insider is more than a harrowing character drama and master class in true story filmmaking. It's an eerily prescient and all too timely cautionary tale about the dangers of allowing business and news to marry, and it resonates more today than it ever has. It also happens to be one of the best movies of 1999, backed by Al Pacino and Russell Crowe's powerhouse performances, Dante Spinotti's striking Oscar-nominated cinematography, Best Director nominee Michael Mann's watchful eye and ever-steady hand, and Mann and co-writer Eric Roth's sharply scripted, tightly paced indictment of the ills of the tobacco industry and the failings of modern journalism.
Adapted from Marie Brenner's "The Man Who Knew Too Much" and based on the events surrounding an infamous 1995 60 Minutes interview with a tobacco industry whistleblower, The Insider tells the (mostly) true story of two men -- 60 Minutes producer Lowell Bergman (Pacino) and former Brown & Williamson VP of research and development Jeffrey Wigand (Crowe) -- as they fight to warn the American public about nicotine's addictive properties and Big Tobacco's real intentions, all of which contradicts previous denials made by tobacco CEOs testifying before Congress. As Wigand faces death threats and legal action, endures the wrath of a vicious smear campaign and risks losing his family, Bergman engages in a battle with CBS corporate, whose owners are determined to keep Wigand's interview off the air, fearing the possibility of a billion-dollar Brown & Williamson lawsuit that might jeopardize CBS' upcoming sale to Westinghouse Electric.
Pacino, reuniting with Mann four years after Heat, simmers as Bergman but rarely erupts, marking a more restrained performance from the explosive veteran. It's also one of his finest, most fully realized turns to date, crackling with a credibility that skirts the kind of melodramatic flare-ups that might have rendered The Insider a lesser film. Crowe exercises restraint as well, yet allows Wigand's deteriorating situation to have a profound, disquieting impact on his character's physical and emotional state. His Wigand is prone to volatility, but not that of an award-seeking thesp; rather a meticulous actor who values authenticity and his role as a chameleon above all else. Both Pacino and Crowe graciously step aside, though, anytime their excellent supporting cast is given the opportunity to come forward. Christopher Plummer brings tremendous balance and nuance to his portrayal of 60 Minutes journalist Mike Wallace, presenting a far more complex newsman than it first seems. Colm Feore and Michael Gambon are quietly effective for the short time they appear on screen too, while Bruce McGill, Philip Baker Hall and Gina Gershon sink their teeth into small but juicy parts. Only Diane Venora, playing Crowe's cold, dismissive wife (after previously playing Pacino's cold, dismissive wife in Heat), fails to make the most of her scenes, remaining the ensemble's lone weak link.
Fortunately, the performances, however outstanding, aren't the only elements that elevate The Insider. Mann and Spinotti manage to maintain a gripping visual momentum no matter how still or static a scene, combining a host of daring stylistic flourishes with frank, unassuming photography. Add to that the illusion of documentary-like spontaneity, which showcases the actors' finest moments without making it look as if Mann and Spinotti's cameras and lighting are doing anything of the sort. Of course, William Goldenberg, Paul Rubell and David Rosenbloom's editing is crucial and, more importantly, spot on. And with Pieter Bourke and Lisa Gerrard's score falling into place, the entire film vibrates at a frequency distinctly Mann, distinctly seamless and distinctly absorbing. Even Mann and Roth's climax, partially a bait and switch involving a different news story tucked within a carefully veiled subplot, comes together brilliantly, furthering the narrative with the realization that Wigand's whistleblowing isn't the only story in the sea, and that the show -- or perhaps the tragic merging of news and entertainment -- must go on. By the time the credits roll, it's abundantly clear that Mann is a craftsman of a higher caliber and The Insider is a character-driven masterpiece of a higher order.
The Insider Blu-ray, Video Quality
Disney doesn't exactly have the greatest track record when it comes to Buena Vista and Touchstone catalog releases, but The Insider is something special. Its beautifully filmic 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 video transfer is as impressive as just about anyone could hope for, and free from any significant artifacts or encoding issues. Grain has been preserved and refined, edges are crisp and resistant to ringing, fine textures are clean and exceptionally well-resolved, and shadow delineation, though a bit on the unforgiving side, isn't prone to crushing or home to errant noise. Dante Spinotti's palette shifts dramatically from scene to scene as intended, complete with twice-baked oranges, overcast blues, pale greens and deep, almost oppressive black levels. Contrast is a touch hot, yes, with more than a few instances of oversaturated skintones (particularly in regards to Christopher Plummer), but again, it's all in keeping with Mann and Spinotti's intentions. And while those familiar with the Blu-ray edition's DVD counterpart will note the resulting image is much darker and richer than in previous presentations, it would be a mistake to immediately assume contrast has been over-cranked or the original source has been subjected to any disastrous tweaking. It's dangerous to view a DVD as an accurate representation of the film negative, and anyone who does so in this case will miss out on everything the new presentation does oh so right. My only complaint? Slight halos are visible from time to time. Thankfully, it's exceedingly minor and doesn't hinder The Insider at all.
The Insider Blu-ray, Audio Quality
It would be easy to dismiss Disney's DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track as front-heavy or serviceable, especially during the film's quieter moments. Take even a moment to focus on the lossless mix, though, and you'll quickly realize just how effective it is. Dialogue is grounded in Mann's reality, often challenging voices but never drowning out dialogue or accomplishing anything other than creating a convincing, naturalistic and decidedly immersive soundfield. Rear speaker activity is subdued but wholly satisfying, and latches on to the subtleties of bustling news rooms, downpours, seaside conversations and more crowded locales. LFE output is weighty and assertive, lending the film sonic depth and power, even in those moments when Pieter Bourke and Lisa Gerrard's score surges forward and dominates the soundscape. Dynamics are excellent too, as is directionality, cross-channel pans and overall fidelity. It may not be readily apparent, but The Insider couldn't sound much better than it does here.
The Insider Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Only two extras are included: a short production featurette (SD, 7 minutes) and a theatrical trailer (SD, 3 minutes).
The Insider Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
The Insider is a compelling, unexpectedly timely adaptation of a riveting true story, not to mention a critically hailed Best Picture nominee that should have taken home many of the Oscars that instead went to American Beauty. Much to my delight, Disney's Blu-ray release treats it as such. While only a scant few extras find their way onto the disc, the studio's video presentation is stunning and its DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track is an example of restrained catalog audio done right. Easily one of Michael Mann's greatest films (second only to Heat), The Insider comes highly recommended.
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The Insider Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Exclusive Giveaway: The Insider - February 13, 2013
Blu-ray.com and Walt Disney Home Entertainment are offering three members an opportunity to win a copy of writer/director Michael Mann's The Insider, starring Russell Crowe, Al Pacino and Christopher Plummer. Nominated in 2000 for seven Academy Awards (including ...
• The Insider Blu-ray - December 19, 2012
Early next year, Walt Disney Home Entertainment is releasing writer/director Michael Mann's The Insider on Blu-ray. Nominated for seven Academy Awards, including Best Picture, the intense, masterfully crafted drama stars Russell Crowe, Al Pacino, Christopher Plummer ...
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