ďFame has a fifteen-minute half-life. Infamy lasts a little longer.Ē
- Lowell Bergman
Michael Mannís 1999 masterpiece The Insider is hardly about the dangers of smoking cigarettes. As Mike Wallace, superbly portrayed by Christopher Plummer in a role that should have won him an Oscar (at least garnered him a nomination), says at one point in the film, that information is hardly news.
But news, how we get it, who delivers it, the handcuffs put upon and the changing specter of corporate influence upon it, that is exactly what The Insider is about, Mann and fellow writer Eric Roth, using journalist Marie Brennerís article ďThe Man Who Knew Too MuchĒ as inspiration, focusing on the whys and hows that led ď60 MinutesĒ to leave tobacco industry whistleblower Dr. Jeffrey Wigand (Russell Crowe, in an Oscar nominated performance) dangling in the wind in fear the network might be sued and its proposed sale to an interested party could potentially be jeopardized.
It isnít just awesome, the mesmerizing nature of the story almost makes that a forgone conclusion, itís what it so deftly says about the rise of the 24-hour cable news cycle and hoe media conglomeration has affected, some would say infected, how it is we now get our information. Truth is no longer paramount, hard-boiled journalists like Lowell Bergman (Al Pacino, delivering one of his best performance of the past, oh, I donít know, two decade maybe) suddenly unsure how to proceed as their word is treated as something to be bartered and bid on and not as sacrosanct fact in which potential sources can count upon.
Donít mistake what Iím saying, one of the geniuses of Mannís film is that it is far from a didactic diatribe. It is in fact one of the more exciting procedurals ever put to celluloid, the filmmaker delivering a pulse-pounding race against time where at stake is journalistic ethics as well as a manís very soul. The shades of grey assaulting this thing from every corner are astonishing, and the fact The Insider lost to American Beauty (a good movie, but hardly a masterpiece) for the Oscar for Best Picture is as head-scratching a move as any the Academy has ever offered up in all its storied 85 year history.
The Insider is presented on a dual-layer 50GB Blu-ray MPEG-4 AVC Video with a 2.40:1/1080p transfer.
This Blu-ray features an English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack along with a Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 track and French and Portuguese Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks and features optional English SDH, French, Portuguese and Spanish subtitles.
Extras (as scant as they are) are ported over from the previous DVD edition and include:
∑ Production Featurette (7:05)
∑ Original Theatrical Trailer (2:33)
A movie like this begs for more, and why Disney didnít bring additional extras to the table for this long-in-coming Blu-ray release makes your guess as good as mine.
The Insider is arguably director Michael Mannís greatest achievement. At the very least, it should have won at least a couple of the seven Academy Awards it was up for (including Best Picture over winner American Beauty). The filmís Blu-ray release looks and sounds terrific, at even with the criminal lack of extras considering the very low price-point for the title adding this one to your personal hi-def library is an absolute must.