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The Insider

The Insider
A Touchstone Home Video Release
1999, 157 Minutes, Color, Rated R

Starring:  Al Pacino, Russell Crowe, Gina Gershon, Christopher Plummer, Lindsay Crouse, Philip Baker Hall
List Price:  $32.99 USD, released 04/11/00
Packaging:  Keepcase, Region 1 NTSC
Disc Format:  Single Sided, Dual Layered (DVD-9)
Aspect Ratio:  2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Audio Formats:  English 5.1, French 5.1
Subtitles:  English
Closed Captioning:  English
Features:  Featurette, "Inside a Scene", Theatrical Trailers, Interactive Menus, Scene Selection.

The Insider is an enthralling true-life story detailing a tobacco company executive’s decision to blow the whistle on the entire industry. Russell Crowe plays Dr. Jeffrey Wigand, a man who was fired for displaying his displeasure at the misleading practices used by his employer, Brown & Williamson Tobacco. Wigand had already signed a confidentiality agreement, however after he has innocent contact with a "60 Minutes" producer, the company suddenly insists he sign a more detailed one. Shocked, he refuses and begins talking to Lowell Bergman (Al Pacino) from 60 Minutes. From there The Insider is a suspense thriller that, for over two and a half hours, manages to keep you on a roller coaster ride of plot twists and turns. Wigand must weigh the safety of his family along with the mental, legal, and financial costs of publicly disclosing his information. Nominated for 7 Academy Awards, The Insider is a enthralling movie made all the more interesting by the fact that it’s based on actual events.

As Disney is such a prolific studio, their decision to finally support Anamorphic transfers is a great boon to DVD owners. The Insider’s 2.35:1 16x9 enhanced video is gorgeous with deep, solid black levels and well calibrated brightness. Many scenes take place at night, so it is a relief to see that shadow detail is excellent while colors are rich, yet natural. I was unable to detect any compression artifacts; film grain and chroma noise is also nonexistent. The 157 minute movie is stored on a dual-layer disc and divided into 30 chapters, with the layer change occuring 4.32 in chapter 17, or 1:21.54 into the movie.

Being a drama, The Insider’s Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack makes little use of the rear channels except for ambiance. However, the most important part of the entire film – the dialogue – is presented with crystal clarity and no unwanted background noise. The film’s somewhat eccentric (though absorbing) musical score has great range and solid bass throughout. In addition to English, a 5.1 channel French track is also included.

Disney’s average DVDs still lack any real complement of extras, though it’s obvious someone behind the scenes is trying. A 7 minute production featurette presented in fullscreen video and stereo sound features brief commentaries by Al Pacino and Russell Crowe. Three trailers are included, including one for the Insider in 1.85:1 video and 5.1 audio. The other two trailers are for other movies, and unfortunately play every time the disc is inserted. The only way to bypass them and access the menu is to hit the chapter skip button several times. This is the same "forced" system as on Tarzan and other recent DVDs, and I hope Disney soon abandons it. Finally, the new "Inside A Scene" feature provides notes to actors, the original script and video for one important scene in the film.

The Insider is one of the best dramas of 1999. Although the DVD is limited in extra features and is priced higher than the average disc from competing studios, excellent video and sound quality still make it a worthwhile purchase. This movie is rated R for language.

- Reviewed by Daniel Tonks on April 16, 2000.

Video Quality:
Audio Quality:
1-Poor 2-Fair 3-Good 4-Excellent
System Equipment
Sony DVP-S500D DVD Player
Sony STR-GA8ES 5.1 Receiver
Sony 32" XBR250 WEGA TV using Component
Nuance Spatial Baby Grand 3E & StarSat

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