Before Gladiator and A Beautiful Mind, Russell Crowe gave a knock-out performance as a tobacco industry whistleblower. His mannerisms, the way he walked, his speaking voice were just fascinating to watch. He nailed this performance and I consider it to be the best work he has ever done. It certainly has more depth and intricacies than both of his follow-up films, but when a certain buzz is created around a film that also has a huge box office, that film usually gets most of the glory. Perhaps it hurt that The Insider was not a profit-maker – ‘only’ making $60 million, far short of its bloated budget of $90 million. Again, the screwy politics of Hollywood played a part in a critically acclaimed film’s disappointment come Academy Award time.
Al Pacino is given lead billing, but it is Crowe who leads and steers this film. Pacino is solid, as is Christopher Plummer. I also consider The Insider to be the beginning of a renaissance of the film career of Plummer. I think he has been woefully underused in film throughout his career. He is an amazing actor. Him being the oldest actor to win an Oscar is both a crime and a satisfaction. The Insider was really an actor’s film. This is what also happened to All the President’s Men. A factual story, well-presented on screen has a lot of juicy roles to fill. As a result, the actors who filled the roles portrayed the characters so well that their performances competed with the real-life story for attention. It is rare that this happens, but it happened again with The Insider.
This is the type of film that is made way too less of – intelligent, thought-provoking, intense, analytical, socially and morally fascinating.
When a film containing three A-list dramatic actresses comes out, the film usually is overwhelmed by the talent and it dies an early death. Films with three lead actresses are rare. They are rare because it is so difficult to harness the talent (and the personalities) of the actresses to create an even film. One (or all three) end up trying to take center stage with their performance and the film ultimately suffers. Also, screenwriters don’t know what to do with three lead female roles. None of this occurs with The Hours. It is one of those rare films when all lead actresses provide performances that contribute to the overall strength of the film, rather than having one steal the show.
Although Meryl Streep, Julianne Moore and Nicole Kidman contribute great things to this film, the real winner is screenwriter David Hare, who has crafted a complicated story of three women joined by despair. It’s a wonderful piece of work. I know this because every time I see it, I forget the twist at the end. You get lost in the three stories. You know they’re joined but they’re told so well individually that when that moment hits you at the end, you go ‘oh yeah’. Hare crafts this three-pronged story so well that although you know that the three actresses are the bricks and mortar of the film, the screenplay is the foundation.
Nicole Kidman is unrecognizably wonderful. Julianne Moore’s character is so lost in despair and her tale is told so well that you’re drawn in by her great performance. Meryl Streep is, as usual, solid and reliable.
This B-movie, sleeper film that probably not a lot of people have heard of is a solid sci-fi action thriller. A good example of one of these so-called ‘triple threat’ films is Alien and its sequels. The Hidden was probably inspired by Alien, though The Hidden succeeds because it has a much more humanistic tone than the Alien franchise. There is something very dark and sinister about the Alien franchise. The Hidden takes a more light-hearted, human condition route and in many ways, outdoes Alien in being a thoroughly engrossing, watchable film.
I think I first saw The Hidden on late night a few years after its release in 1987 and I was rivited by the story. Instead of taking place in space, the setting is modern-day earth – instantly recognizable by everyone. Michael Nouri (the police detective) and Kyle MacLachlan (the alien in human form) are the perfect duo. Their chemistry together is one of the great cop buddy partnerships in film history (right up there with Lethal Weapon). MacLachlan’s fish-out-of-water alien provides for some great scenes. The story is well-constructed, seamless and manages to hold it’s firm grip on reality despite the alien from outer space theme – something that you forget about while enjoying the film. The ending (which I won’t mention) is a superb comment on humanity and selflessness. This is an intelligent, humanistic, moving sci-fi film that opens on full throttle and doesn’t let up until the end.
Despite the cringingly awful theme song at the end, this film is not only a guilty pleasure but a pleasant surprise. Unfortunately, a totally preposterous sequel was made and it sounds so awful that I refuse to watch it for fear of ruining this fine film.
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