Time Out Chicago : Addiction Incorporated Film review

February 10, 2012 : By A.A. Dowd
A Big Tobacco whistle-blower gets his documentary due.

Big Tobacco has been Public Enemy No. 1 for long enough now that it’s easy to forget how recently it wasn’t. Though the hazardous effects of smoking have been common knowledge for decades, attitudes toward the cigarette companies didn’t go south until the mid-’90s, when investigative journalists began to expose the truth about corporate cover-ups.

Addiction Incorporated traces that righteous crusade back to one man: Victor DeNoble, a former employee of Philip Morris and the first major informant to speak out against the tobacco industry. (His congressional testimony predates the revelations of Jeffrey Wigand, the whistle-blowing executive lionized in Michael Mann’s The Insider.) DeNoble was hired in the late ’70s to produce a safer cigarette, but his research with lab rats revealed ways in which the habit-forming properties of nicotine could be enhanced. The findings were suppressed, the scientists were fired, and Philip Morris officially chose “more addictive” over “less harmful.”

An engrossing piece of cinematic journalism, Addiction Incorporated moves fluidly from DeNoble’s research days to the muckraking blitzkrieg that began after ABC aired a segment called “Smoke Screen” on Day One in 1994. Perhaps fearful that all the science talk will bore viewers, director Charles Evans Jr. re-creates the lab experiments in distracting animated vignettes, featuring anthropomorphized, nicotine-loving river rats. (You half expect the talking DNA strand from Jurassic Park to make an appearance.) These pop-doc flourishes may be appropriate, given that DeNoble now presents his research to grade-school students. For the adults in the audience, it’s easier to get hooked on the history than the D.A.R.E.-style lectures.

Source: Time Out Chicago