60 Minute Man

Michael Mann's tobacco saga The Insider is an Oscar-worthy tale of real-life suspense

On the other hand, the film also omits the fact that CBS owner Laurence Tisch had substantial tobacco holdings and was actually negotiating a deal to buy the rights to some of Brown and Williamson's bargain brands at the time. (One wonders if this will be mentioned in the extended version of the film that ABC plans to air sometime next year.) An additional dimension might have been added if more of Wigand's character flaws had been shown. Although Vanity Fair portrays him as a short-fused kinda guy prone to lashing out at those close to him, the movie has him lose his temper only at moments that are absolutely justified. A real-life incident in which Wigand almost shoplifted a bottle of liquor would have been a great scene and given the character more human frailty, but, alas, it just isn't there.

Tobacco road: Russell Crowe (left) and Al Pacino in The Insider.
Frank Connor
Tobacco road: Russell Crowe (left) and Al Pacino in The Insider.

Even though the tobacco companies make for great real-life villains, and those who fight them real-life heroes, the good guy/bad guy setup of The Insider feels just a little too clean to have been drawn from reality. Still, the final product is great populist entertainment and may even leave audiences with a feeling of comfort, however fleeting, in the knowledge that corrupt corporations don't always win.

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