The Insider (1999) is based on the true story of a man Jeffrey Wigand (played by Russell Crowe) who works as a senior scientist in a big tobacco company (Brown and Wlliamson) who decides to reveal the information he has about how the top executives of the tobacco industry had known (and concealed) research evidence about the effects of nicotine on smokers’ health. In his professional capacity as the head of Research and Development for Brown and Williamson Wigand comes across research that he believes is jeopardizing public health. However, the top management at B&W ignore his concerns, fire him from his job, and try to shackle him using an elaborate non-disclosure agreement. Ultimately, Wigand meets Lowell Bergmann (played by Al Pacino) who is able to get his interview on CBS’ 60 Minutes and have him testify about the ill effects of tobacco and smoking in Mississipi. In the end, the efforts of Wigand, Bergmann, and others who staked their careers and lives bear fruit and the tobacco industry had to pay a $246B to settle a lawsuit brought against it by the state of Mississipi and others.
This movie is primarily about corporate whistle-blowers and how when one person in a company decides to speak up against unethical or illegal behavior, his (or her) life and the life of others around him (or her) is drastically affected. But the movie is not just about one whistle-blower, it is about two men who knew they had to stand up against the unacceptable behavior of the top executives in their company- Wigand and Bergmann. Wigand can not accept that the CEOs of the seven big tobacco company (“the seven dwarfs” he calls them) lied on oath to the Congress about the evidence related to the effects of tobacco. Bergmann is unable to accept that CBS will not air the tell-all interview Wigand gave about how big tobacco ruined his life to prevent him from speaking about what tobacco companies were hiding. In the end, both men did what they thought was right, but they paid a heavy price for doing the right thing.
The movie is long, but worth watching!
(If anybody who is reading this was involved in any of the incidents presented in the movie, we would love to hear from you!)