The sharpest of satires. Aaron Eckart is slick motormouth and p.r. flack Nick Naylor, a smooth and ingratiating shill for the tobacco industry. In his rise, fall, and semi-rise, the film’s message – think for yourself because there’s money and power in letting folks tell you what is good for you, be they corporate behemoths or self proclaimed protectors of the common good – is hilariously delivered.
As Naylor struggles internally with selling death, the fight is not a one way dawning. It goes 15 rounds and the preening self-regard and power seeking of the do-gooders is contrasted with the soulless, rapacious greed of the baddies. It’s a close run thing, and an enjoyable fight to watch.
Indeed, this movie should be required viewing for every ex-hippie who now clamors to ensure that his or her child live a risk-free life, at the expense of everyone who might otherwise own a gun, light a smoke, have a drink, eat a transfat, shout an obscenity or injure budding self-esteem.
I mean, we know the corporations are bad, as exemplified by my favorite line from the film, from the President of The Academy of Tobacco Studies (played by J.K. Simmons):
We don’t sell Tic Tacs, we sell cigarettes. And they’re cool, available, and addictive. The job is almost done for us.