Monday, 22 October 2012

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1999: Christopher Plummer in The Insider

Christopher Plummer did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Mike Wallace in The Insider.

Christopher Pummer despite winning and being nominated for several critical awards for his performance in this film. The academy though apparently did not find Plummer was someone who needed to be awarded for another ten years. This made particularly strange in that the film was nominated for best picture, so it is not that he was not on their radar. I suppose the veteran spot was merely taken by Michael Caine's wholly undeserving work in The Cider House Rules.

Christopher Plummer portraying 60 minutes interviewer Mike Wallace who works with Lowell Bergman (Al Pacino) to bring hard hitting news stories like that of a tobacco company whistle blower Jeffrey Wigand (Russell Crowe). Plummer really does not necessarily try to imitate Mike Wallace in his performance exactly, instead he more effectively becomes the role that Mike Wallace should be. Plummer has quite a well handled voice, and presence he puts on into his scenes in the film particularly when Wallace is in the process of interviewing someone.

Interestingly Plummer shows Wallace to actually put on a bit of a show when he is in action as an interviewer. It is not that it is a facade, but Plummer makes it abundantly clear that Wallace does in a way give a performance when he interviews someone. Plummer has a particularly strong method in the interview scenes as he creates a certain warmth within Wallace that would pull you into listening to him, yet underneath the warmth there is a great deal of sharpness as well that portrays well the way Wallace gets to the fact of the matter.

Christopher Plummer actually rather well even pulls in the performer of Wallace in other moments presenting the idea that Wallace's on screen persona comes in at times even off screen when it is required. Plummer handles this especially well, and it feels entirely natural since Plummer only does it when it fits the moment. For example when Wallace greets someone in public, or quite brilliantly when Wallace becomes the great newsman he claims to be near the end of the film, when he tells his boss he is going to do the right thing after all.

When Wallace is not on Plummer paints a different portrait of the man. What really becomes missing in his portrayal is the warmth of the interview scenes, and Plummer actually portrays him in what is a more down to earth, and flawed manner. Plummer does not strive from the flaws, although importantly he does make it clear that Wallace is an intelligent man, and the sharpness of his style is still apparent although in a far less charming fashion.

An important aspect of the film is that Wallace does not keep with Bergman all the way, when legal threats mount from telling Wigand's story. Plummer believably shows that Wallace does not really want to screw Wigand over, but rather he plays it as Wallace simply taking the easy way out. There is some redemption for Wallace as he does eventually try to show his protest through an interview even though even that is squashed, although Wallace does not take this lightly. Plummer makes the scene where he tells his distaste to the corporate weasels especially passionately and powerfully, making the scene a highlight of his performance and the film.

Technically speaking this performance is not one that is given a great deal of time within the film as the film is not the story of Mike Wallace after all. Plummer though makes the role his own, by firstly not just being some sort of imitation but in a far more striking fashion by giving his own take on the character. Secondly though whenever Plummer is on screen he does his best to give a compelling portrayal of the journalist that succeeds in pulling Wallace out of being just part of the background as he very easily could have been. If Plummer had to win an Oscar it most certainly should have been for this performance, since with this performance it would have been a much more deserving veteran win.


Michael Patison said...

Interesting thoughts. What did you think of the film as a whole?

mrripley said...

A very deserving winner in 99,what did you think of al and russ.

RatedRStar said...

he has reviewed Russ for best actor 99.

Louis Morgan said...

Michael: I think its good, but not great.

mrripley: Well Crowe is second out of the nominees for me. Pacino is good, and it certainly is one of his better post seventies performances.