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The Insider (Blu-ray Details)

Unique ID Code: 0000222772
Added by: Jitendar Canth
Added on: 8/7/2023 16:53
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    Review for The Insider

    10 / 10


    Not too long ago, I took a belated look at Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang, a film that I had partially watched on television years back, made a promise to watch it in full thereafter, and promptly forgot about it until now. The Insider is another such film, a 1999 feature based on a true story that I caught the ending of years ago, but have only got around to completing the experience now. Of course the sticking point is that this is one film that is yet to see a Blu-ray release in the UK. In the end, I wound up importing the German release, although the US disc might be preferable if you need hard of hearing subtitles. Incidentally, The Insider is rated 6 in Germany, a country where F-Bombs are apparently not considered harmful to infants. You might want to temper your expectations accordingly, although the number of children that would want to watch a drama about the duplicitous nature of the tobacco industry probably won’t be that many.

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    While producer Lowell Bergman is being driven blindfolded to a meeting with a Hezbollah leader to set up an interview with prime time news show 60 Minutes, non-descript scientist Jeffrey Wigand is leaving work from tobacco company Brown & Williamson for the last time after being fired. Bergman is always on the lookout for the next big story for 60 Minutes to cover, and when an anonymous source drops a box of tobacco company research data on his lap, he looks for a consultant to translate the science for him. Jeffrey Wigand is in need of income, but Lowell’s journalistic instincts perk up when Wigand begins by telling him that he can talk about the data, but nothing else thanks to the NDA he has with his former employers. Yet when Brown & Williamson unceremoniously rewrite and broaden the non disclosure agreement, and start pressuring his family, Jeffrey Wigand decides that he has a story for 60 Minutes, but it’s a story he might not be allowed to tell.

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    The Disc

    The Insider is presented in a 2.39:1 widescreen 1080p format on this disc, with the choice between DTS-HD MA 5.1 Surround German and English, with optional German subtitles (The disc defaults to German quite obviously). The image is clear and sharp for the most part, detail levels are good, and colours are consistent, if somewhat subdued for the film’s documentary style. Night time scenes have a kind of digital looking softness to them, but that shouldn’t be the case in a film from 1999, although I do seem to see it in all the Michael Mann films I have watched. And there is a fair amount of colour grading. The audio is fine, not too surround intensive given the genre, but doing enough to lend some degree of immersion, especially when it comes to film’s music soundtrack. I didn’t find the lack of subtitles too much of an issue when it came to dialogue clarity, but your mileage may vary, and as mentioned, there is an English territory release from the US.

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    You get one disc in a thin BD Amaray style case, with a thin card slipcase to hold it. The sleeve is reversible if the German ratings logo offends. Inside you’ll find a 24-page booklet, and hopefully your phone has an app to translate the German text. The disc boots to an animated menu.

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    There is a 5:27 Introduction to the film in German.
    The featurette lasts 7:08 and is presented in 1080i50, and features input from the actors, director, and the real life Jeffrey Wigand and Lowell Bergman.
    There are two trailers for the film, really the same trailer twice, once dubbed in German, and the original English version.
    Finally there are trailers for The Sixth Sense, Mission To Mars, The Hitcher, Bandits, Antitrust, and Near Dark.

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    Minus the dramatic embellishments, the events in this film actually occurred. What’s surprising is that it happened in 1996, as I could swear from the story, that it should have happened a lot earlier. It’s about the how the tobacco industry has duped its customers. Even before 1996 we knew that cigarettes were bad, health warnings were printed on packaging, we knew they caused cancer, and advertising them had long since been banned. It actually took until 1996 for the tobacco companies to be forced to admit that they knew that the nicotine in tobacco was actually addictive, and that the process of manufacturing cigarettes was such that it enhanced the addictive properties of nicotine. Given how those very same tobacco companies are now selling strawberry flavoured nicotine vapes to schoolchildren, The Insider has as much relevance as ever, if not more so.

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    Like many such movies, it comes down to a clash between ideals and cynical greed. The idealists here are scientist Jeffrey Wigand and news producer Lowell Bergman. Wigand in particular is not too likeable, lacking in social skills and quick to fly off the handle. While he initially wavered over the NDA he had to sign, it’s only when the company unilaterally change it in their favour that he gets the impulse to stand up to them, a decision he later comes to regret when he sees the effect it has on his family. Bergman on the other hand comes across as more sympathetic, just as single-minded when it comes to chasing stories for 60 Minutes in the pursuit of ratings, but still having the wherewithal to approach his sources with compassion, although he has more than a healthy ego.

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    Corporations seem to have bottomless sources of money when it comes to promoting their agenda, lobbying and donating to politicians, aggressively marketing their positions, and jumping to litigate against any potential threats, using the courts as weapons to tie-up and silence their critics. Thus the first half of the film comes as no surprise, as Wigand faces implicit pressure from his former employers, subtle threats, and when that doesn’t succeed, litigation and character assassination.

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    The second half of the film adds another dimension though, as when they fail to stop Wigand, they corporation turns on his supporters and allies. Suddenly CBS has a vested interest in not airing the interview that they worked so hard to get. There’s something rotten in the heart of broadcasting, and for Bergman the shoe is on the other foot, as he too has to turn whistleblower.

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    There is a history of cinema looking at journalism and real life events, films like Shattered Glass, The Killing Fields, and Frost/Nixon, and The Insider stands up alongside the best of them, Good Night, and Good Luck, and All the President’s Men. It’s gripping and suspenseful without losing the reality of the story it aims to tell. It may be close to three hours in length, but the time just flies by. It’s just a pity that this film hasn’t had a UK Blu-ray release, as it’s a movie that deserves to be seen.

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