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THE INSIDER

Starring: Al Pacino, Russell Crowe, Christopher Plummer
Director: Michael Mann
Rated: M

THERE is a telling sequence, an actual news item, repeated several times in The Insider, showing seven top executives of American tobacco companies giving evidence before a House Committee of the US Congress.

Taking the oath to tell the truth, each executive, hand held high in affirmation says, “I do not believe nicotine is addictive”.

A cynical American public watched and the self-righteous group was nicknamed “The Seven Dwarfs”. Using the real-life TV clip, director Michael Mann is also co-writer of the screenplay for The Insider. Mann is remembered as the producer of TV’s Miami Vice and director of The Last of the Mohicans and Heat.

This clip of the tobacco executives sets the scene for one man’s fight against the tobacco industry in the US. Jeffrey Wigand, played by Russell Crowe, was head of research and development, a man with a science degree, working for the tobacco company Brown and Williamson. Wigand, with a highly developed conscience, was caught in a moral dilemma.

His research clearly indicated the deadly effect of nicotine and additives in direct contradiction of the stand taken by the tobacco companies. In his highly paid job he had signed a confidentiality agreement, and if he left the company and broke it by disclosing all he knew, the legal and other pressures would be horrendous.

This is precisely what happened! Director/screenwriter Mann shrewdly concentrates on the human element without burdening the plot with excessive technical details, and in Russell Crowe is a performance of restrained anger, bottled emotions and agonised conscience that certainly deserves an Oscar.

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