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The Insider

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.

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Posted by on June 2, 2013 in Movies

 

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Cinderella Man

James J. Braddock (played by Russell Crowe) is a hard-working man, struggling to eke out a living in New York City during the Great Depression of the 1920’s/30’s. He’s also a prize-fighter who has publicly and spectacularly fallen from grace. He’s hit rock bottom and is now battling injury and controversy, trying to support his wife Mae (by Renee Zellwegger) and their three children, but he’s finding it tough to get a bout. He’s unable to pay the bills so with his family in danger, to his utter repugnance he is forced to go on public welfare. But his determination to fight again, along with the strong love and honour he feels, drives him to keep trying to help his family. He summons the will to return to the ring. Nobody rates his chances, but driven by sheer grit Braddock fights on and starts to win, then keeps winning. Suddenly, this working man-in-the-street becomes an athlete, much adored, nicknamed the “Cinderella Man” and bearing the hopes and dreams of the depressed community. Until the day Braddock and his spirited manager Joe Gould (by Paul Giamatti) come up with a scheme that pits James against the reigning world heavyweight champ Max Baer (by Craig Bierko), who’s known as a killer in the ring …..

This is a great movie. Russell Crowe is marvellous and unapologetically brutal as James J. Braddock. But I didn’t find this offensive or overdone – it’s appropriate for this gritty role. Renee Zellwegger is great as the long-suffering Mae, I liked her performance a lot. As is quite often the case too, Paul Giamatti’s scenes are terrific – in fact, I’d say he and Russell Crowe are the stand-outs. The period environment and the ‘science’ of boxing gets a good airing. I did enjoy the toughness of the story and Russell Crowe’s outstanding athleticism and efforts as Braddock. This is a compelling real-life story of this family and Ron Howard does give it a “feel good” twist, which you may or may not appreciate. In 2006, Paul Giamatti was nominated as best supporting actor in the Academy Awards (Oscars) for this performance.  There are several books and documentaries about James J. Braddock and in general, I think this is a good movie.

Made in 2005.  Directed by Ron Howard.

 
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Posted by on July 30, 2012 in Movies

 

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