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Friday, September 18, 2009

The Informant!

Meet The Talented Mr. Insider-Outer . . . Believe It Or Not

Matt Damon as Mark Whitacre in "The Informant!", which opened today across North America.  Steven Soderbergh directs the film.  (Photo: Warner Brothers)

By Omar P.L. Moore/   SHARE
Friday, September 18, 2009

A sly, charming corporate comedy that grows serious, Steven Soderbergh's "The Informant!" is a delightful parody of whistleblower films.  Based on a true story detailed in a book by Kurt Eichenwald, the film features tall tales, G-men bent on exposing a price-fixing scandal at any cost, and a man who gives those Feds everything he knows and more.  Marvin Hamlisch provides a music score that lends the film a sunny, innocent and vintage 1970s feel, as does the filmmaker's cinematography, full of bright lights and earth tones. 

Mr. Damon plays Mark Whitacre, President of the agri-business company Archer Daniels Midland during the late 1980s through the mid-1990s.  He displays a cheeky wit and wisdom in a role that could be a comedic cousin to "The Talented Mr. Ripley" character he played ten years ago in Anthony Minghella's film.  The ADM executive is embroiled in a price-fixing scandal within the company and is pressured to blow the lid off the wrongdoing to the FBI whose special agents (Scott Bakula, priceless with his facial expressions alone, and Joel McHale) are trying to shepherd him through.  Mr. Damon is especially good here, giving a flightiness and aloofness that makes his portrayal as devastating as it is funny.  

The most clever thing about "The Informant!" is Mr. Soderbergh's decision to make the film as a comedy, even if it isn't always amusing.  A cold dose of reality shudders down the viewer's spine at several moments.  Numerous whistleblower films (including Mr. Soderbergh's own "Erin Brockovich") and "The Insider" have an earnest, righteous straight-ahead tone earmarking them as serious films but "The Informant!", roaring with satirical excess, is more complex because it deals with the essence of psychosis as much if not more than it does corporate malfeasance.

"The Informant!" could be compared to a 1970s Quinn Martin television production and it's this cheery nostalgia that adds to the film's entertainment value.  Boasting an ensemble cast, Mr. Soderbergh's modest and sometimes unassuming film represents yet another aspect of his versatility, marking him as one of America's best and busiest filmmakers.  "The Informant!" is a sweet, sublime triumph.

With: Melanie Lynskey, Clancy Brown and Tom Smothers.

"The Informant!" is rated R by the Motion Picture Association Of America for language.  The film's duration is one hour and 47 minutes.

YouTube unscripted edition:

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