The Insider: Film Critique

Essay by DJohnson08College, UndergraduateB, November 2014

download word file, 6 pages 0.0

Johnson 6

Devante Johnson

Film Critique


The Insider

Unbeknownst to his family yet "former" Vice President of Research and Development for Brown and Williamson Tobacco Company, Jeffrey Wigand, is approached to decipher some documents for a story on fire safety and hazards, as it pertains to tobacco products, for the TV show 60 Minutes. After meeting with producer Lowell Bergman, Wigand seemingly, unintentionally hints that he may have a bigger story to tell than the original story being pursued. Sometime later, after much deliberation, persuasion from Bergman, and violent insinuations by his previous employers Wigand decides to tell his story in the form of an interview with 60 Minutes although breaking legal agreements, putting his family at risk and possibly incriminating himself. Although not aired at first due to a sudden yet temporary lack of integrity in "real news" by CBS News' corporate offices, Wigand's story gets published by the Wall Street Journal and eventually aired on CBS' 60 Minutes and the truth is finally exposed.

This film has several characters and events that portray or exemplify various styles of leadership throughout the film specifically authoritative leadership, affiliative leadership, democratic leadership, coaching leadership and trait leadership, the film also had multiple examples of power and authority including reward power, coercive power, legitimate power, legal rational authority as well as charismatic authority.

In the beginning of Lowell Bergman's investigation and interest with Dr. Wigand he exemplifies the traits of an authoritative leader 1, asking Wigand what he thought would be the right thing to do, basically follow your heart and when you do the right thing you can and will change the world. Serving as a voice of positivity and ensuring that change and progression would come about if he were to break his legal agreement with Brown and Williamson in order to do the right thing. As the film progresses and nears completion Dr. Wigand shows some traits of an authoritative leader when in the classroom with his students, as he is teaching all of the students look engaged and attentive to what he has to say and he looks happy, excited and proud of himself.

Many characters fit the definition and description of an affiliative leader 2, the most obvious being Bergman. He constantly stated throughout the film from start to finish "I stand by my word" and his reasons were because he wanted to gain the trust of those he needed but also because he cared, not only about getting his story but about the people around him, their feelings, their opinion of him as a person, and their well-being. Bergman uses the trust gained through his friendship with a journalist from the Wall Street Journal to get a smear story on Wigand delayed but also gets Wigand's story published in the paper. Another example of an affiliative leader would be Dr. Wigand although often not seen or portrayed as the leader figure he too cared about others and their needs but he was more so concerned with the youth. His children for example but also the fact that he pursued and obtained the occupation of a school teacher and was later named Teacher of the Year for the entire state of Kentucky.

Democratic Leadership 3 was portrayed by Bergman's colleagues when they all went against him even his "partner in crime," Wallace, because they thought it would be smarter and safer for them to work on an edited version of Bergman's show without the interview from Wigand although Bergman was totally against it. It was also displayed by Bergman and the attorneys from Mississippi when they deliberated and decided it would be in Wigand's best interest to testify in Mississippi although he would later get hit with a gag order from the state of Kentucky.

Wigand displays the character traits of a coaching leader 4 very well, he always explains what is going on to his daughters in terms they can understand but never condescending and never too simple. For example, when his youngest daughter is having an asthma attack in the beginning and as he is giving her the breathing machine he is explaining what is happening and why exactly it is happening and how the medicine was making her better so that she would know and be prepared for the future. He also displays this trait just by being in the teaching profession and sharing his knowledge with the students so that they may have the skills to succeed not only in school but in life after school.

The final leadership trait displayed in the film was trait leadership5. Although quite vague it is indeed mentioned during the scene in which Wigand and Bergman are meeting at the Japanese restaurant and Wigand asks Bergman if he became a journalist because his dad was a successful journalist but Bergman sternly and quickly refutes this accusation stating the fact that his dad left his mom when he was five years old making his dad less than favorable.

One of the most prominent powers exemplified within the film was reward power 1, and it was used by both Wigand's "ally" as well as his "enemy". Bergman , Wigand's ally, tells him that he'll get $12,000 dollars if he just deciphers the anonymous documents but later goes on to offer him the satisfaction of changing the world with his story. Then his enemy on the other hand, Brown and Williamson Tobacco Company, offers him health benefits and medical coverage for his family knowing his daughter has asthma and he needs it in return for him not telling his story to Bergman and doing the interview for 60 Minutes.

Coercive Power 2 is used in the same token or respect as reward power was, Brown and Williamson instead of offering the health benefits decide that if Wigand doesn't agree to sign an addition to his confidentiality agreement essentially preventing him from speaking about nothing he researched at B&W, whereas his original agreement just stated that some things were off limits or confidential, they would terminate his family's health coverage.

The last prevalent power exemplified in the film was legitimate power 3and it comes from Bergman throughout the film in its entirety, he always uses influential tactics, words, and actions to get others in the film to do what he wants or needs despite what they want to do for example, he gets Jeffrey to go against his belief of honoring agreements as a businessman, he gets the legal team in Mississippi to accept Jeffrey's case, he gets the FBI to investigate its own agents, he gets his friends at the Wall Street Journal to print a story about the corruption of CBS and the truth about the tobacco companies, and last but not least he gets Jeffrey's interview on 60 Minutes. Another example of legitimate power is when CBS corporate influences Lowell's boss as well as colleagues to go against airing Wigand's interview.

The Legal Rational Authority 4 was the confidentiality agreement Wigand had with Brown and Williamson, stating that he would not disclose any research or findings accumulated while at their company, hindering him from interviewing for Bergman, testifying against B&W in court, and living a normal life with his family because of all the threats and intruders.

Last Charismatic Authority 5 is portrayed by the two main characters of the story Lowell Bergman and Jeffrey Wigand, Bergman displayed his charisma by appealing to everyone's emotions and being likeable even when they didn't want to hear what he had to say or wanted to air. For example, when he came to a pissed off Wigand's house and assured him that he would never hang him out to dry and even though Wigand was mad at him he still listened to what Bergman had to say. Wigand on the other hand although charismatic as well, his charisma only showed during his interview on 60 Minutes when he was holding back tears, taking dramatic pauses and telling the truth and whenever he was with his daughters or his family.

This true story was written to tell the trials, pain and heartache one man had to endure to tell his story that would change the world and show exactly how the man who helped him do it, did just that. This film depicts the biggest as well as the first lawsuit filed and won against major tobacco corporations and the persons responsible for getting the message out to the public. From this film I've learned that although leadership is praised and rewarded it takes time, effort and patience before the perks of knowing what you did was right and getting credit for doing so come along. This film was very interesting because it showed me a side of the law as well as corporate operations that I didn't know existed and how it worked exactly and shows that the events that took place as well as the people involved are significant in the study of leadership because those who rose above the negativity to publish the truth and serve justice to those that deserved it did so not by following the thoughts and beliefs of others but rather by standing for what they believed was fair and right not only morally but legally. This film definitely depicted this event as well as the persons involved realistically because the extra things that serve a purpose but aren't major were covered all while not taking away from the big picture or main issue at hand.

The Insider. Dir. Michael Mann. Prod. Michael Mann. By Michael Mann. Perf. Al Pacino and

Christopher Plummer. 1999. DVD.