The Insider

Surprisingly tense morality tale, based on recent events, about tobacco industry insider Jeffrey Wigand (a terrific Russell Crowe), who blew the whistle on his employer Brown & Williamson – and by extension the entire tobacco industry – by exposing their unethical practices of increasing nicotine levels in their tobacco blends.

Goaded by 60 Minutes producer Lowell Bergman (a fine Al Pacino) into taking his story public on the show, Wigand reluctantly agrees – and winds up getting screwed by nearly everybody around him, including 60 Minutes itself, as he learns the high price of telling the truth. (A multi-billion-dollar company like Brown & Williamson, it seems, can afford some terrifying lawyers.) In a cast filled with top-notch talent, it's veteran actor Christopher Plummer who impresses the most with his no-nonsense portrayal of 60 Minutes' legendary anchor Mike Wallace.

For a film that concerns itself with confidentiality agreements and tobacco companies instead of contract killings and spies, The Insider plays out as a top-notch political suspenser. Although I can't stop thinking about the film's lone sour note, in which goofy morphing effects are employed in one scene in an attempt to underscore Wigand's mental and emotional stress, it only stands out because the rest of the film is so impeccably directed, with taut editing and high-impact visuals.

This is a great movie for all those who enjoy David and Goliath stories, only without the sentimentality that often sinks the genre. The Insider is, first and foremost, a nailbiter of the highest order.