The Insider

“They’re afraid of you aren’t they? They should be.”

This is a short excerpt of dialogue from the film The Insider, directed by Michael Mann. Jeffery Wigand, played by Russell Crowe, is an ex-vice president of Brown and Williamson Tobacco Company. Wigand has vital information against cigarette companies about tobacco reform, but a confidentiality agreement is binding his words. Can Wigand find the courage to overcome innumerable obstacles and boundaries that have been set up against him? When you push someone into a corner, they’re going to fight back.

The story is passionate, the camera angles are intense and the music is exhilarating. These are all great qualities for a film; however, anything done to excess is overkill and can overwhelm the viewer. Every scene is dramatic, so much so, that the spectator never has a chance to process the previous information. Because the entire movie has such a critical light, the important scenes tend not to stick out. Some points drag out for minutes when they deserve only seconds. While it shows the onlooker the significance for every action, the characters make it monotonous.

One scene is called “Paying the Highest Price.” It is essentially Wigand sitting in a hotel room remembering his past and all the things he gave up trying to speak the truth. The mural painted on the wall dissolves into a memory. In the background, there is elevator music playing. Wigand is sitting in the hotel’s chair. He is drifting through his past experiences. His chair is in his backyard as his two daughters play in the garden. The focus shifts from Wigand to his daughters.

There is an incessant pounding at the door. The manager is calling out to Wigand. Lowell, played by Pacino, is on the phone. Everyone is trying desperately to reach out to Wigand. Suddenly, the music cuts and Wigand slams the door. Without the music the shot certainly loses its emotional backing. When the sound would normally cut off, it flows together with the rest of the scene. Unfortunately, the sequence lasts far too long to maintain the viewer’s attention, and therefore loses its power. This scene leads into Wigand telling Lowell off.

By the end of the movie, it seemed as though every other scene had no ambient noise and was controlled simply by non-diegetic sound (eg: powerful mood music). Looking back, one of the things that stands out the most is a scene of Wigand sitting in the car, silent, with a melodramatic soundtrack playing. He is surrounded by a convoy of police on his way to a deposition. The music cuts and suddenly there is a roar from reporters asking questions. It is essentially the same scene as when he is sitting in the hotel only with different footage. The feeling is the same, and by the credits the point has been beaten to death through redundancy. While it adds to the film in some respects, it takes away in many others.

The movie was extremely well done. From a film standpoint, it was incredible. From an entertainment perspective, the movie was lacking in several key aspects. Overall, I recommend watching it at least once. It is educational and makes you wonder what else goes on under the table.

Mudman Index | Rock Music Magazine