Lowell Bergman (played by Al Pacino) is a long experienced producer on the US “60 Minutes” television show. One day he receives some heavy research on the health effects of nicotine and contacts industrial chemist Jeffrey Wigand (by Russell Crowe) to interpret it for him. Wigand has recently been fired from his job at a tobacco company and Bergman sees that he has deep resentment about it. He follows his instinct and when Wigand is reluctant to talk to him for fear he will break his severance agreement with the company, Bergman senses a big story. Wigand gets more company pressure not to talk, which exposes him to rising tension and risks the safety of his wife Liane (by Diane Venora) and family. He agrees to a high-risk interview with Mike Wallace (by Christopher Plummer), then CBS must navigate all the legal and business ramifications to decide how best to present the story, for the benefit of everyone involved – Wigand, the tobacco companies, the public and themselves. Jeffrey Wigand finds out how it feels have the courage to “blow the whistle” and tell the truth for the greater good, but to go up against the might of big business at the same time.
This is a good drama. It’s a long movie, but that’s important to develop the story appropriately. I was not aware of this incident at the time, so I thought the movie would be primarily focused on Jeffrey Wigand, – it is, but the real star is Lowell Bergman. Al Pacino shines here – he’s just a natural talent. He portrays Bergman with authenticity and his performance balances very well with both Russell Crowe’s work and the performance of Christopher Plummer as Mike Wallace – all three are excellent. The production is dark, literally, and there is little in the way of enhancement with music or visuals – which puts the focus squarely on the story – again, quite appropriately. This is not a story to be played with. Russell Crowe was nominated in several forums as Best Actor for this role (including the Academy Award [Oscar]). He was awarded by several Film Critics Societies, but he was not awarded an Oscar, yet again. Christopher Plummer received an award from the Boston Society of Film Critics in 2000 for his marvellous work. The production itself was severally nominated for Best Cinematography, Film Editing, Best Picture, Sound and Screenplay. It is based on the 1999 article “The Man Who Knew Too Much” by Marie Brenner. It’s good.
Made in 1999. Directed by Michael Mann.