Title: The Insider
Release Date: 2002
Nationality and Language:
Running time: 155 min
Distributor and Production Company: Buena Vista/Touchstone
Director; Writer: Michael Mann
Producer: Michael Mann (wr Marie Brenner, Eric Roth)
Cast: Russell Crowe, Christopher Plummer (as "60 Minutes" interviewer Mike Wallace), Al Pacino, Colm Feore;
Relevance to DOASKDOTELL site: tobacco
Movie Review of The Insider
Touchstone Films (Buena Vista Distributors, Walt Disney Corp). Director: Michael Mann
Starring: Russell Crowe, Christopher Plummer (as "60 Minutes"
interviewer Mike Wallace), Al Pacino, Colm Feore; 155 Minutes;
This ambitious film intrigued me as a writer because it presented a problem (tobacco litigation) that has some rough parallels to my own pet issues (such as gays in the military), particularly with regard to intellectual property legal and ethical problems. I have certainly been concerned with such issues as conflict of interest and breach of loyalty, if not "tortious interference."
The film kept me glued to
my seat. Particularly captivating were the wide-screen settings of such
There are two
"stories" or major episodes (in the style of DADT chapters). The
first concerns chemist Jeffrey Wigand (Russell Crowe), who gets fired from
Brown and Williamson tobacco company for complaining to management when he
"discovers" that his research is directed towards making cigarette
smoking more addictive. He is fired for "poor communications
skills," and the movie should have shown his firing. It does show the bru-ha-ha over his confidentiality agreement, which would
affect his severance. When Wigand tries to get around it by giving a
deposition in the
The second "chapter" deals with the struggles of CBS Producer Lowell Bergmann (Al Pacino) to protect his witness (Wigand) and get his interview aired. CBS corporate refused to allow the interview, not just out of a fear of a possibly frivolous lawsuit from B&W, but out of the effect on the stock price of just such a threat. Bergmann finally quits because he does not feel that, as a journalist, he can protect his sources in the future.
The movie does pose the question "who owns the press" (indeed an issue in my own COPA litigation). In the age of the Internet, one may not have to raise through the tortuous ranks to practice effective "journalism."
There has been controversy over whether this film meddles with the "hard facts." It does seem a bit self-righteous, and it's a little slower paced than say Oliver Stone's JFK or Nixon. I follow this with great interest because Do Ask, Do Tell lends itself to this kind of expansive historical treatment. And with DADT, the literal truth makes things stronger, although it's hard to compress years of history into less than three hours of 70-mm film.
Some of the
"moral" questions have me puzzled. Take, for example, the
But if we accept the fact that the tobacco companies are engaging in "tortious" wrongdoing, then isn't Wigand "guilty" himself? A Ph.D. chemist should have "known" what his "research" would be used for, and indeed when he "found out," why didn't he quit? The reason presented in the film is "family first," including (ironically) a daughter with life-threatening asthma attacks and a wife with progressive multiple sclerosis. Well, "family first" goes down the tubes when he "tells" and gives his deposition! Anyway, he had no right to depend upon an immoral activity to support his lifestyle, and even (as a sole breadwinner) his family.
Another important recent film about little people taking on the establishment is the joint Universal/Columbia (and Jersey Films) effort Erin Brockovich, the true story of a single mother who takes on a big utility (PE&G) in a water contamination case. The story does have precedents, such as A Civil Action (1998), Silkwood (1983) and even The China Syndrome (1979).
I suppose that many people’s life-defining story develop out of
coincidences, as does
So sometimes us “little” people understand an issue better than the “professionals,” especially the lawyers who probe issues for a living. And she does this for her babies. Only later does she realize her independent self-worth. At one point, she tells her boyfriend: “This is the first time in my life people listen to me.” That paradigm works with gay issues. I felt the same way after I published my first book (Do Ask Do Tell) and started public speaking.
This film is analyzed at a screenplay structure website and is probably taught in screenwriting classes. See http://www.screenplaymastery.com/structure.htm
This Israeli film, directed by Arik Kaplan has
been called a “romantic comedy,” but it is bigger and more serious than has
been recognized. This is the first major film to show Israel during the
Persian Gulf War Desert Storm in 1991 when Saddam Hussein’s scuds were
falling on Israeli cities. And this is the first film that I know of that
showed circumcision on-camera. The
story was a bit artificial, with some comedy built around the idea of
communal living in a stressed environment (the intimate scenes with gas M-17
protective masks??—never saw that before, either.) In Hebrew and Russian,
subtitles, 90 Minutes. Independent
ThinkFilm/Capitol, dir. Gregory Nava,
Sin Nombre (“Nameless”, 2009, Focus / Canana,
Deals with the war on drugs, USA Films, directed by Steven Soderbergh, with Michael Douglas
New Line Cinema is developing a reputation for in-your-face, political
films (starting with Wag the Dog in 1997, not long before
Indeed, as the film posters say, we did come close. I have to presume that our missiles in
Turkey then really could have delivered devastating blows to Moscow (despite
Kennedy’s claims to Khruschev that the base was
obsolete); otherwise Kennedy simply could not have run the gauntlet of
waiting with a “quarantine” (euphemism for a naval blockade) because the
Soviet’s could have hit us first. His
reasoning for waiting was his not wanting to start
And this brings up the problems with this kind of historical film-making. We know the ending; the worst (unlike the 1982 fictional films The Day After and 1983 Testament) did not happen, so Donaldson “entertains” us with shots of H-bomb weapons tests and U-2 flyovers (which did happen) and enactments of what the Cuban bases might have looked like. The characters seem aloof from “real people” and the O’Donnell family (except for the teenage son with the bad report card) seem phony. Other films, like The War Game (1967) and even Horishima Mon Amour (1961) may have engaged the audience with “real people” more.
But there was one episode that really did intrigue me: O’Donnell takes it upon himself to red-telephone no fewer that two young military field-grade officers and order them not to “tell” superiors if they get shot at, because their brass may use The Big One to protect them. Both young officers are cast as extremely appealing characters, practical but well attuned to the tradition of military honor and absolute truthfulness up the chain of command so well described by Joe Steffan in his book Honor Bound (1992) and ultimately a major debating point by the gay community in challenging the military gay ban in the 1990s. One of them (describing himself as religious) will indeed be shot down, perhaps the only American fatality of the episode. But we all know that at the highest levels military and international politics involves the deception of a diplomatic “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” as when Robert Kennedy, at the 11th Hour, presents the final terms to the Soviet Ambassador.
In fact, the attitudes of Kennedy’s military advisors were interesting.
It’s often said that they wanted to justify themselves by having war,
something I encountered during my own stay at the Pentagon while in the Army
in 1968. But it’s more than that. Some
of them believed that war was necessary and could be contained, even nuclear
war, and their belief provided a basis for their position in society,
especially concerning social attitudes towards the proper roles for young
men. This was a big issue for me. But
the Soviets apparently really did want to hold a nuke in our faces, possibly
forcing us to capitulate to their psychologically driven (and disguised by
left-wing collectivism and communism) desire to rule the world. This was more
than just getting missiles out of
There is a brief episode involving the possibility of civilian evacuations
of the East Coast, as has been previously revealed on
Then, I want to mention what I was doing during this crisis. I was a
patient at National Institutes of Health, as described at http://www.doaskdotell.com/content/xchap1.htm,
after my own debacle at William and Mary. I had heard Kennedy’s October 22
speech in the
Topaz (1969, Universal, dir. Alfred
Hitchcock, novel by Leon Uris, 144 min). A French agent Andre Deveraux (Frederick Stafford) finds a mole in the French
government, comes to the
Related reviews: Fail Safe
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