Sunday, July 23, 2006

[DVD] The Insider (1999)

This Isn't a Joyride

Directed by Michael Mann, The Insider belonged to the category of movies with a number of nominations for an Academy Award, but won none. Based on a true story (of course with some dramatic license taken) involving the CBS hit television documentary series 60 Minutes, this is a rare insight into the time when the acclaimed series faltered in its editorial stand.

WIth whistle-blowing having the local spotlight in recent months, no thanks to the NKF fiasco, this movie tells the tale of integrity in investigative journalism, and how two men rose to overcome personal challenges, to put out a story with damning evidence against the tobacco industry.

Russell Crowe plays Dr Jeffrey Wigand, an R&D vice president at Brown & WIlliamson, recently fired for reasons unknown. As he holds an important role in the company, his severance package requires him, and I suppose like all leadership positions in Fortune 500 companies do, to sign a confidentiality agreement. However, he's holding onto something big that could damage the industry, and with these companies, having their reputations and industry survival put on the line, is never cowering to non-conformists.

Herein lies the dilemma about moral obligation - if you're privy to industry information that is sensitive to the company, yet in the public's eye can help save lives, and put things into perspective, would you go public with the information? Wigand was undecided, but hearsay of horror stories, and being compelled to believe that he and his family were being watched, and threatened, he made up his mind that enough was enough, and did what a man would have done, even though it was against his wife's wishes, and didn't the guarantee safety of his family.

Besides Wigand, the other protagonist is Lowell Bergman (Al Pacino), who is a producer at the famed 60 Minutes. Fighting to get Wigand's story told, he too runs into opposition from all angles, including internal ones at CBS News. To survive, he had to rely on personal wit and contact to establish and swing things around in his favour, even resorting to giving unauthorized scoops into the inside happenings at 60 Minutes when they decided to air an abridged version of the story.

The movie raises a number of interesting questions about the wheelings and dealings of the supposedly free press in the USA, and how when you're under media scrutiny, every little dirty detail you have hidden about your past, will be brought up and blown out of proportion. Grim reminder, but true.

The acting by the two leads will keep you riveted as you watch the entire proceedings unfold, until Massive Attack's Safe From Harm (just the remixed instrumental) closes the curtain.

Code 1 DVD contains the theatrical trailer, a 7min production making-of featurette where you'll see the real Lowell Bergman and Dr Jeffrey Wigand, and a relatively useless Inside A Scene segment where you'll see a partial notes to the actors, script, and the actual scene again, how it played out according to paper.

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