Michael Mann's intense drama about The Insider was released in 1999 to a host of stellar reviews. In fact, it was difficult to find a film critic who was not enamored by it. Even the criticisms that were voiced could be seen as minor flaws, at best. Seemingly all reviews of this film praised both the skills of Mann as well as the unbelievably talented cast, especially Russell Crowe, Al Pacino, and Christopher Plummer. Indeed, it was the popular consensus that The Insider was both an entertaining and informative piece that was sure to captivate audiences. It seemed likely that The Insider was destined for success at the 2000 Academy Awards, but, alas, the critics' hopes for this film were left unrealized as it took home the big prize for none of its nine nominations that night. It would forever remain a critically-acclaimed success that was not appreciated nearly enough by the masses.
Interestingly enough, the fact that this film is based on a true story did not seem to come up much in the reviews. No one complained about any gross misrepresentations of the truth or large inaccuracies in the story line...except of course for those real people who were portrayed in The Insider as less than perfect! Several reviews mentioned Mike Wallace's disapproval of the film itself and how he was portrayed; obviously, though, this is something that is bound to happen when a film is created based on a true story and real people. Also oddly absent from the majority of the reviews was the angle about the role the media plays in the film. Mann portrays CBS as a money-hungry, valueless corporation ready to abandon the journalistic integrity of its flagship program 60 Minutes just to improve its chances at clinching a lucrative business deal. Perhaps the film reviewers are so used to this sort of corruption in the media world that they didn't feel the need to make a point of it in their pieces.
(a tip o' the hat to William Rainbolt for sharing his bibliography)
Ansen, David. "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes: Dark Tales of the Tobacco Wars Light Up the Screen." Rev. of The Insider, dir. Michael Mann. Newsweek 8 Nov. 1999: 98.
This review captures the excellence of Mann's ability to make a thrilling film about a seemingly mundane news story: "Mann could probably make a movie about needlepoint riveting." While also praising the acting of Al Pacino and Russell Crowe, Ansen acknowledges that creative license was indeed used in the case of Lowell Bergman's character and perhaps that of Mike Wallace, as well. Still, this reviewer feels that The Insider accomplishes much in its revelation of just how guarded the secrets of Big Tobacco are.
Douglas, Clifford. "Hollywood Hails a Tobacco Whistleblower." Rev. of The Insider, dir. Michael Mann. British Medical Journal 4 Dec. 1999: 1508.
As a writer for a medical journal, Douglas offers a unique perspective on the film. He is most concerned with The Insider's role in the public battle against Big Tobacco. This is where he finds his fault. He claims that "The Insider oversells the relative importance and impact of its story, which is simply one chapter in a longer tale." Still, Douglas does seem to be pleased with the fact that Mann's film has called attention to a very important crusade in the health industry, admitting that "by fuelling [sic] public revulsion, the film should help speed the growing cultural tide against the tobacco industry and its lethal product--a valuable contribution by any measure."
Foreman, Jonathan. "Putting Their Ashes on the Line: 'The Insider' A Stylish Tale of Heroism and Betrayal in the Battle against Big Tobacco." Rev. of The Insider, dir. Michael Mann. New York Post 5 Nov. 1999: 52.
Foreman is full of compliments for the actors in this film, calling Russell Crowe's performance "magnificent" and proclaiming that "the great [Christopher] Plummer...steals the movie with his brilliant, devastating impersonation of Mike Wallace." But Foreman is nonplussed by Mann's use of this whistleblower tale as anything truly crucial to society, arguing that "[i]t's not as if the fate of the republic depends on the public being told the news that cigarettes are dangerous, and that cigarette companies can be ruthless and dishonest." Didn't we already know that?
Johnson, Brian D. "The Man Who Knew Too Much." Rev. of The Insider, dir. Michael Mann. Maclean's 8 Nov. 1999: 86.
Johnson compares the exciting gangster-style of The Insider to another of Mann's famous projects, his hit series Miami Vice. Both have "electrifying visuals and lush soundscapes," but when you add to that the intense story behind The Insider, he claims that "the result is extraordinary." Like the other reviews, this one is full of compliments for Mann while admitting that he did mold the facts a bit to his advantage. One interesting insight of Johnson's: "It is so rare to see a juicy Hollywood movie that exposes corporate America without even changing the names." Indeed it is, and it makes the movie all the more powerful.
Maslin, Janet. "Mournful Echoes of a Whistle-Blower." Rev. of The Insider, dir. Michael Mann. New York Times 5 Nov. 1999: E1.
Maslin can find no faults with Mann's film, labeling it his "most fully realized and enthralling work." Her comments are equally positive about the film's cast. She is most impressed, however, with the visual effects of The Insider. Maslin calls attention to numerous aspects of this, such as the "raw-nerved, changeable camera style," the "stunningly evocative images," and the "dazzling cinematography of Dante Spinotti."
Parks, Louis B. "Heroism at Forefront of 'Insider'.'' Rev. of The Insider, dir. Michael Mann. Houston Chronicle 5 Nov. 1999: 7.
Parks feels that The Insider was constructed almost perfectly, with his only complaint being the overuse of the close-up. He regards this film as "solid, thought-provoking, and exciting." Additionally, he notes the importance of the film's non-preaching stance on the moral issues it presents. This allows the audience to form its own opinions, without being swayed. Parks' best marks are reserved for Russell Crowe, though, who he says "gives a beautiful, restrained portrait of Wigand as a barely contained volcano and a deeply conflicted and flawed personality."
Sterrit, David. "The Scoop: 'Insider' Delivers Great Drama." Rev. of The Insider, dir. Michael Mann. Christian Science Monitor 5 Nov. 1999: 15.
Calling it "one of the most stirring movies of this increasingly strong year," this review focuses on the compelling tale The Insider tells, while barely mentioning the performances of the actors. Sterrit delves into the major moral issue present in the film, which revolves around Jeffrey Wigand's inner conflict between his own rights vs. those of the greater good. Still, Sterrit is quick to point out that Mann's film is no documentary but is a very engaging treat, complete with "appealing stars, neatly scripted dialogue, and crisply constructed scenes."
Brady, Terrence J. Rev. of The Insider, dir. Michael Mann. Pan & Scan Reviews 24 March 2003 <http://www.teako170.com/ps16.html>.
Carr, Jay. "Heavy-handed 'Insider' a Smart, if Smug, Story." Rev. of The Insider, dir. Michael Mann. Boston Globe 5 Nov. 1999: D6.
Clark, Mike. "'The Insider' Masterfully Lifts the Smoke Screen." Rev. of The Insider, dir. Michael Mann. Life 5 Nov. 1999: 1E.
Corliss, Richard. "Deep Throat Takes Center Stage." Rev. of The Insider, dir. Michael Mann. Time 1 Nov. 1999: 98.
Cunneen, Joseph. "Power and Faith." Rev. of The Insider, dir. Michael Mann. National Catholic Reporter 3 Dec. 1999: 17.
Grossman, Lawrence. "The Insider: It's Only a Movie." Columbia Journalism Review 38.4 (1999): 60-62.
Lacayo, Richard. "Truth & Consequences." Time 1 Nov. 1999: 18.
Simon, John. "Truth Up in Smoke." National Review 6 Dec. 1999: 71.
Strickler, Jeff. "Kickin' ash." Rev. of The Insider, dir. Michael Mann. Star Tribune 5 Nov. 1999: 35.
Travers, Peter. "The Insider." Rolling Stone 25 Nov. 1999: 111-12.
Williams, Dan. "Looking for a Few Good Heroes." Rev. of The Insider, dir. Michael Mann. Jerusalem Post 24 Jan. 2000: 7.
Copyright (c) 2003 Lindsay Elizabeth Totams, Undergraduate at Lehigh University.
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