Written by: Michael Mann & Eric Roth, based on the Vanity Fair article “The Man Who Knew Too Much”
Directed by: Michael Mann
Starring: Al Pacino, Russell Crowe, Christopher Plummer, Diane Venora, Philip Baker Hall
My Advice: Don’t miss it.
Dr. Jeffrey Wigand (Crowe) has information that the tobacco companies don’t want shared. Lowell Bergman (Pacino) is a 60 Minutes producer who runs across Wigand almost by accident when trying to get some scientific cigarette jargon translated into English. But Wigand is itching to tell somebody what he knows. And Bergman wants it on 60 Minutes. And the tobacco companies want Wigand to shut the hell up. Conflict ensues? You betcha.
It’s refreshing to see a film that shows as heroes people who don’t have noserings, don’t have children with seventeen women, and don’t blow things up. Those things have their place in the cinematic spectrum, but they’re workaday now. It’s just nice to see a movie about real people. And “heroes” is perhaps too strong a word, when you consider that it carries with it connotations of being better than others. The two protagonists of this film aren’t necessarily better than anyone else; they just try to do what they think is the right thing. Even the character of Mike Wallace (a fantastic Christopher Plummer), who some thought would be portrayed in a bad light, is simply portrayed in a realistic light. The flaws are all there, for everyone involved, and to see all of their motivations running rampant over one another makes for an extremely engaging film.
All through the viewing of this film, the questions assailed me: what would I do? If I had this sort of information, what would the cost be to my family, friends, life if I spoke up? Or even if I did nothing? There are no easy answers to any of the questions posed by this film. The one thing that is made abundantly clear–sometimes there is a hefty price tag associated with doing the right thing. And in a world where the government, the press, and the entire corporate culture seems to have lost its ability to do the right thing–the price is going to keep going up.
This film is not a film. It’s an achievement. My highest recommendation goes along with it.