“The Insider” is one of Touchstone’s most respected films in their canon and the most underrated American films of our time. It was overdue for Blu-ray release and now, the film that takes a look at the tobacco industry and modern journalism finally makes it high definition debut.
Directed by Michael Mann (“Heat”) and nominated for seven Oscars including Best Picture, Best Lead Actor for Russell Crowe and Best Director, “The Insider” recalls the story of how Jeffery Wigand (played by Crowe) agreed to go on camera for a “60 Minute” interview. However, death threats and threats of lawsuits ensue as Wigand’s and “60 Minute” producer Lowell Bergman’s (Al Pacino) lives and careers hang in the balance.
Everything in “The Insider” is top-notch from the performances to the cinematography. Crowe, Pacino and Christopher Plummer certainly brought their A-game when they made this film.
Reuniting with Mann four years after working with him on “Heat,” Pacino is a little more restrained here as he turn in a more realistic and nuanced performance compared to nearly shouting every line he says in other movies. Some would argue that Crowe’s best performances can be seen in other films like “Gladiator” or “A Beautiful Mind,” but I would argue that his role in “The Insider” is his best thus far as his performance showcases the physical and emotional impact that Wigand goes through as the movie progresses. Plummer does a fantastic job by capturing the essence of “60 Minutes” correspondent Mike Wallace. Bruce McGill, Michael Gambon and Colm Feroe are good in small, but important supporting roles.
The performances aren’t the only thing that elevates “The Insider.” Mann brings his signature directional style to life thanks to cinematographer Dante Spinotti as this film is filled with a variety of effective camera angles complete with indirect focus and intense close-ups.
The video quality of “The Insider” is superb as it showcases great clarity with no sign of grain or distortion. The aspect ratio of 2:39:1 allows the movie to exhibit such strong details that you can see the perspiration drip off some of the actors’ faces. The video presentation showcases Mann’s vision via Spinotti’s cinematography as the film is often layered in a variety of colors (ala “Traffic”) like in a cool blue or pale green light.
The only thing that seems to be lacking on this Blu-ray is the special features. There is the original theatrical trailer and a short EPK-like featurette shot in 1999 with thoughts from the real Jeffrey Wigand and Lowell Bergman. However, the box art promoted a sort of audio commentary featuring Russell Crowe and Al Pacino, but it was nowhere to be seen on “The Insider” disc itself. That is a shame because that was something I was really looking forward to.
Despite the disc lacking hard-hitting or new special features, “The Insider” is a must-buy for fans of the film or fans of Mann’s work as this is his second best film behind “Heat.” The film is an effective thriller that is based on a true story that features tremendous performances from Crowe, Pacino and Plummer. The video quality is an absolutely stunning sight to behold as it looks like it hasn’t aged since 1999.