The Insider (1999)
Director: Michael Mann
Stars: Al Pacino, Russell Crowe, Christopher Plummer
Some films based on real-life events require a full-scale investigation in order for a filmmaker to separate fact from fiction. The Insider is one such case. Directed by Michael Mann from an article in Vanity Fair, the film tells the story of tobacco industry big shot Jeffrey Wigand (Russell Crowe) who decided to blow the whistle on his own company when he realized that they were increasing the amount of nicotine in each cigarette.
What sounds like a preachy tale of the dangers of smoking is anything but in the hands of Mann; the film, instead, is a statement on the far-reaching powers of corporate America and the somewhat incestuous relationship between corporate evil-doers and the media. In Wigand’s case, an act of bravery turned into a nightmare, one in which his family was bullied and threatened. And all of it for nothing, really; a segment Wigand taped for 60 Minutes about his company’s wrongdoing was edited down to little more than a sound byte because the station’s then-owner was also the head of a tobacco company. After much pressure, the segment eventually aired in its entirety three moths later—but at that point it was too late; Wigand and his family had already lost everything. The Insider, on the other hand, catapulted Crowe to the acting A-list.