By J.D. Lafrance
Just when you thought it was safe to go back to the typewriter, Michael Mann brought the crusading journalist back with The Insider (1999), which did for television journalism what All the President’s Men (1976) did for newspaper reporters. By 1999, with the exception of The Keep (1983) and The Last of the Mohicans (1992), people expected to see a bang, bang, shoot ‘em up, cops and robbers story from him. While Heat (1995) is often regarded as his signature film, The Insider is The One, an ideal fusion of his artistic and commercial sensibilities.
While The Insider certainly has its version of cops and robbers, good guys and bad guys, white hats and black hats, Mann subverts his own stereotypes where the good guy and the bad guy are encapsulated in one man who grapples with his soul and makes hard decisions based on what he believes is right. For the first time in his career, Mann presented a vast antagonist and not just a serial killer or a bank robber but instead powerful institutions – a wealthy tobacco company and a major T.V. network. While they are given human faces – the CEO of the company or a high-ranking executive – they are minions of a much greater threat.