The Insider (Blu-ray)
Directed by Michael Mann
Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1 1080p AVC codec
Running Time: 157 minutes
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English; Dolby Digital 5.1 French, 2.0 Spanish
Subtitles: SDH, French, Spanish, Portuguese
MSRP: $ 20.00
Release Date: February 19, 2013
Review Date: February 28, 2013
When chief chemist Dr. Jeffrey Wigand (Russell Crowe) for Brown & Williamson Tobacco Company can no longer keep silent about the toxic effects of nicotine on the consumer, he’s summarily fired from the company and bound by a confidentiality agreement not to divulge his knowledge to the public. When 60 Minutes news producer Lowell Bergman (Al Pacino) becomes convinced Dr. Wigand has a story worth telling, he uses all of his considerable charms and convincing arguments into making Wigand make a statement on the record. Once Brown & Williamson find out that their gag order is about to be breeched, there begins a systematic array of physical, mental, emotional, and legal intimidations used against Wigand to silence him. CBS is also intimidated into backing down from their upcoming story when threatened with potential multi-billion dollar lawsuits right at a time when the company might be purchased by Westinghouse. Things go from bad to worse as Wigand and Bergman both find themselves solitary in their own worlds without the expected support of loved ones and/or corporate big shots.
The screenplay by Eric Roth and director Michael Mann scrupulously divides its attention between the effects on the personal and professional lives of both Dr. Wigand and Lowell Bergman (hence the running time of over two-and-a-half hours). The Wigand portions of the film seem to be the ones with more connection to the audience as these segments involve the disruption of his family life, the threat of incarceration, the trashing of his personal integrity, and the dissolution of his marriage, all for following a moral imperative in the hopes of saving lives. The brouhaha in the CBS offices over whether to air the originally cut together broadcast, an edited version of the interview which cuts much of the soul of it away, or discarding it completely is interesting but a bit pretentiously ponderous in its arguments about journalistic integrity. Michael Mann certainly keeps the camera moving to keep any windy philosophical arguments visually snappy realizing that his movie is running long. Rarely do sequences with a few people involved not find themselves filmed from a dozen different angles with quick cutting very reminiscent of Mann’s directorial style. While the dramatic scenes don’t furnish especially satisfactory closure, there are climactic text screens which bring us up to date (at least to 1999) about the consequences of the events portrayed in the film.
As a follow-up to his sensational performance in L.A. Confidential, Russell Crowe is superb as Dr. Jeffrey Wigand. He is fully convincing as a dedicated family man, a brilliant scientist (who also speaks Japanese), and a man who simply would not be pushed around. His multi-dimensional role is more widely emotional than Al Pacino’s Lowell Bergman who often uses bombast to make his points and who rarely gets scenes simply to sit and ponder. Still, Pacino is dynamic when the scene calls for it, and he’s always “on” even when his lack of subtlety can sometimes become tiresome. Christopher Plummer doesn’t paint the rosiest picture of famous newsman Mike Wallace, portrayed here as a sometimes arrogant, entitled prima donna in addition to being a first class interviewer. Diane Venora gets some prime moments as Wigand’s wife Liane who crumbles under the pressure of the media and her husband’s growing sense of helplessness. Also making important appearances are Philip Baker Hall as 60 Minutes’ head honcho Don Hewitt, Gina Gershon as a CBS corporate attorney who cautions about potential litigation, and Bruce McGill as a Mississippi attorney who deposes Wigand in his state in order to circumvent the gag order from Kentucky.
The film’s Panavision aspect ratio of 2.39:1 is faithfully reproduced in this 1080p transfer using the AVC codec. Through sharpness is generally excellent with lots of details to be seen in faces, hair, and clothes, there are certain shots (often close-ups of Al Pacino) where the image goes unnecessarily soft. Color saturation levels are very good even if occasionally skin tones can get a little warm and rosy. Black levels are quite excellent. The film has been divided into 30 chapters.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 sound mix tends to stay more with the front channels rather than delivering a fully surround audio experience. Occasionally Lisa Gerrard and Pieter Bourke’s music gets the full spread of the fronts and rears, and there are some sporadic uses of ambient sounds in the rears. Much of the film’s sound mix, however, is frontcentric. Dialogue is rooted to the center channel.
Both bonus features are presented in 480i.
An electronic press kit production featurette features brief sound bites from director Michael Mann, stars Al Pacino, Russell Crowe, and Christopher Plummer, and real-life counterparts Dr. Jeffrey Wigand and Lowell Bergman telling the story of the film. It runs 7 minutes.
The theatrical trailer runs 2 ½ minutes.
There are 1080p promo trailers for Who Framed Roger Rabbit and ABC’s Red Widow.
4/5 (not an average)
An absorbing if overextended dramatized look into the true story of tobacco industry whistle-blower Jeffrey Wigand gives Michael Mann’s The Insider the look and sound of the real McCoy. Very good video and audio transfers distinguish this recommended Blu-ray release.