Daily Archives: April 10, 2021

The Insider (1999)

*. I was looking forward to this one. It had received a lot of critical accolades, and I’m a fan of the heroic-journos genre. But then the credits began to roll and we get to the part where it says it was co-written and directed by Michael Mann . . .
*. It’s not that I really dislike Mann’s work. It’s more that I think he’s one of the most overrated directors going. Time and again I’ve been directed to examples of his genius only to come away shaking my head. What do people see in him?
*. As for this movie, like I say, I’m a fan of the genre. The intrepid reporters who uncover a scandal/conspiracy and who have to fight the establishment in order to reveal the Truth to the People. It’s a story that’s worked from All the President’s Men to Spotlight. You really can’t go wrong with it.
*. Unless, like this movie, you stretch things out to an appalling 2 hours and 37 minutes. I have nothing against long, or even slow-moving movies. But a full hour should have been chopped from this one. The pacing is leaden. What’s with all the operatic musical interludes? Why does Mann feel the need to underline how important a particular moment is by stretching it out interminably? That’s just not efficient or effective filmmaking.
*. The real genre being worked here, I think, is that of award bait. This is why it’s so damn long and why everything (the script, the performances, the music, the direction) is so damn serious.

*. You know you’re watching award bait when every big scene is telegraphed far in advance, with our cast delivering set-piece speeches, or the director presenting set-piece displays of his art that have the look of being looked at. Like the bit at the driving range, for example, which isn’t suspenseful or unnerving at all precisely because it’s presented in such an obvious look-at-me kind of way. And don’t even get me started with Wigand’s crisis of conscience as he stares alone out at the ocean (or the Gulf, as the case may be).
*. Despite feeling so much like a shop-window display, I didn’t think there was much worth looking at here. Pacino does his usual thing. I thought Russell Crowe’s performance affected. Christopher Plummer is a good actor but he’s totally miscast here as Mike Wallace. I didn’t buy him for a second in the part.
*. There isn’t even a strong central narrative driving things along. At the end the movie just loses interest in Wigand completely. He gets an approving look from his daughter and that’s it. The people watching 60 Minutes are us, the People, and we are the real winners in this battle for the soul of America. This is so even if we’re not watching, or are bored with what’s going on. A good point, but one that comes far too late to be fully appreciated.