The Insider
Review by Aaron Beierle | posted April 17, 2000
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The Movie:

Director Michael Mann's impressive drama based on a true story garned Oscar nominations, but didn't seem to connect with audiences, and that's a shame. While the film has powerful performances from both Russell Crowe and Al Pacino, its only fault is that, at 157 minutes, it begins to overstay its welcome.

Russell Crowe("L.A. Confidential") plays Jeffrey Wigand, a researcher at a tobacco company who has just been let go from his job, with a package that he will retain if he doesn't leak any company secrets. With bills to pay and a family to feed, at first he agrees. Soon enough though, he's hunted by "60 Minutes" producer Lowell Bergman, perfectly played by Al Pacino as a man who won't give up anything for the story.

After Weigand recieves threats, the two are ready to go public with the secrets of the company with the Tobacco company shoots back with threats of a lawsuit. Suddenly, the futures of both men are thrown into question, not to mention the story. All of this captured brilliantly by the outstanding cinematography of Dante Spinotti, who worked with Mann on "Heat", and the cold, crisp style returns here with success. Spinotti's camera pushes its way into every conversation, bringing us further into the drama.

Russell Crowe's performance as Wigand is fantastic - the actor did a great deal of research about the story, and he dissapears perfectly into the character. At first a quiet, nervous man, he becomes more and more intense as his life begins to fall apart. Pacino is a great match, agressive - but never overdoing the performance.

Yes, I felt it does go a little long at 157 minutes, but it was never boring, and the camerawork makes sure we're involved with every decision. Performances by the entire cast were excellent, and aside from a few slow moments, I really found "The Insider" to be an immensely enjoyable drama that deserved more recognition than it received.


VIDEO:Well, I can find fault with some things that Disney has done lately (actually, a lot of things that they've done lately), but since they've started doing anamorphic transfers, they've produced some excellent results, and "The Insider" looks fantastic from start to finish. Images are razor sharp and contain excellent detail. Colors are natural and pleasing as well, looking solid and rich - never showing any problems. Black level is strong and flesh tones remain very accurate. Working again with cinematographer Dante Spinotti(who also worked with Mann on "Heat") the film displays striking photography, with a cold edge that translates well here.

No problems pop up - no shimmering or pixelation, and the print used is crystal clear. Aside from the animated "Tarzan", I'd have to say that, in terms of picture quality, this is really some of the best work I've seen from the studio.

SOUND: As a "dialogue-driven" dramatic tale, "The Insider" isn't a very agressive movie in terms of sound, but there are some details to the environment during the scenes outdoors or in crowded areas. Surrounds are not put to much use, and the score adds nicely to the tension without being overpowering. Dialogue, which is the biggest part of a movie such as this one, is easily understood and clear.

MENUS:: Basic, non-animated main menus that are film-themed. With a film like this, the menus didn't need to be flashy - and these work fairly well for the material.

EXTRAS: Yes, Disney does still force viewers to watch trailers for other movies from them again here, and thankfully, we can still skip past them. I've said it every single time they've done this recently, and I'll say it again: I hope that Disney stops this in the future. They want us to watch trailers for other movies from them? Fine - include them as an option in the menu so we can watch them when we want.

Trailer: The theatrical trailer is included(letterboxed at 1.85:1 and in Dolby Digital 5.1)

Inside a Scene: Ah, now here's something a little bit interesting, although I wish there was more to it. This section allows the viewer to read the director's notes and the script for a scene from the movie and then view it.

Featurette: The featurette offered for "The Insider" isn't bad, and does offer the usual mix for short documentaries like this - a number of clips from the movie mixed in with interviews with Pacino, Mann and Crowe, along with a number of the "real-life" people from the story. It does provide a nice overview of the history of the story in a matter of a few minutres. Does it go too far in-depth? No, but it's a decent addition.

Summary: I would think that with a number of Oscar nominations that Disney would have put more of an effort beyond a featurette, a small area and trailer together for "The Insider". It got fine treatment in terms of audio and video quality, but there could have been more involvement to include a bigger selection of extras.

Final Thoughts: In this case, I think that the movie itself is good enough to recommend, even though Disney's treatment of it in terms of the extras department is less than impressive. Thankfully, the image quality does justice to the marvelous cinematography.

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