We all know that it's sometimes worth it to take a second look at a film you may have been dismissive of before. To say, I didn't "get" THE INSIDER the first time I saw it would be something of an understatement. I didn't see it as all that revelatory--"'Big tobacco' corrupt?" "Big media craven?" "Mike Wallace has an ego and a temper on the scale of Mt. St. Helens?" Quelle surprise! There was nothing particularly new about all that. In fact, the only big news was that Russell Crowe was going the DeNiro route and altering his physical appearance for the sake of his art. (OK, OK, not as extreme but he did put on a few pounds and donned a less than flattering grey toupe.)
Maybe it was something I ate that first time, though, 'cause the second time around, I have to admit, it was pretty riveting. This time out, I found the moral dilemmas facing Crowe's whistleblower and Pacino's muckraker TV producer pretty darn fascinating--despite the fact that I knew how it was all going to turn out. Oh yeah, and I finally got the fact that the title is supposed to be a little ambiguous and that,yes, Pacino's Lowell Bergman character is an "insider" too.
Sometimes I'm a little slow, but eventually, if I'm lucky, I catch on. THE INSIDER is a quietly powerful and effective film. Apparently, it didn't manage to convince Russell Crowe to quit smoking, but--as a morality tale and as sheer drama--it's still pretty darn effective.