[The Little Theatre. 4/14/2020. Except where indicated, images provided by Amy Stockwell]
The “Beyond the Fold: Journalism on Screen” series presented The Insider before an enthusiastic crowd at the Little Theater on Thursday night. The award winning 1999 film by Michael Mann is a dramatic telling of how a whistleblower’s explosive revelations made it through the gauntlet of corporate journalism at CBS’s 60 Minutes. The series is jointly offered by City Newspaper and the Little and started last December: the final film in the series will be Obit on May 12.The Insider tells the story of how corporate research executive Jeffrey Wigand blew the whistle on tobacco’s addictive character, and the complex ecosystem of Big Tobacco working to keep that character out of the courts and out of public opinion.
Part courtroom drama and part high stakes thriller, the film is ultimately the story of personal courage and its consequences for its two leads: the whistleblower and the journalist who guided the telling of his story. Nothing is simple and no one is drawn without some shades of gray, but individuals act in heroic and unexpected ways. I found it to be both enormously satisfying and realistically alarming, inspiring and optimistic, and ultimately a cautionary tale about how many obstacles people face in doing the right thing.
The film has an all star cast with remarkable performances by Russell Crowe (in his first big leading role), Al Pacino (fabulously nuanced as producer Lowell Bergman) and Christopher Plummer as Mike Wallace. A bevy of supporting characters including Gina Gershon as a ruthless and highly polished corporate attorney reward the viewer at every turn.
For those of us who lived through the nineties, the subtle references to current events (O.J., Clinton impeachment and the Unibomber) were absorbing Easter Eggs now seen through the veil of decades gone. Michael Mann’s cinematography and distinctive style of menace remain as overwhelming as I remembered it from having first seen The Insider on the big screen close to its release date. What is even more rewarding in seeing it now is how compelling the film’s main story remains: how hard and how necessary it is to tell the truth.
The film was followed with a panel and discussion moderated by City Editor David Andreatta with Brighton author David Cay Johnston who further deepened the evening by recounting personal tales of Lowell Bergman and his own struggles to present important stories.
ALSO FROM AMY