Home Video Picks & Passes 02.28.21
Christopher Plummer portrays Mike Wallace in ‘The Insider.’
The Insider (1999) — PICK
One of Christopher Plummer’s best non-antagonist performances was in his supporting role as 60 Minutes correspondent Mike Wallace in Michael Mann’s The Insider, a brilliant fact-based drama starring a conflicted, introverted Russell Crowe as Jeffrey Wigand, a scientist-turned-whistleblower in the tobacco industry.
Plummer’s air of aristocratic privilege and his formidable-but-not-invincible demeanor are ideally suited to the complex portrait of the TV news icon. Plummer’s Wallace is a crusty figure capable of out-blustering an angry Hezbollah bodyguard on the other man’s home turf, yet ultimately unable to stand up to pressure from CBS (under threat of lawsuit from Brown & Williamson) to spike an explosive interview with Wigand.
What initially looks like a celebration of investigative journalism in the tradition of All the President’s Men or The Post becomes a more complex account of the crushing power of all large corporations, including those that bring us the news. Only Al Pacino’s Lowell Bergman, a CBS producer who persuades Wigand to tell his story, comes off relatively unscathed. It’s a sobering examination of courage, cowardice, corruption and the potentially catastrophic costs of telling the truth.
CAVEAT SPECTATOR: Heavy use of strong language. Older teens and up.