The Informant!

2009-10-19 14:48

What it’s about:

Mark Whitacre (Matt Damon) works for a multinational corporation involved in illegal price-fixing scams. When he goes undercover for the FBI for three years to gather evidence of the deals, the entanglements threaten to overwhelm him. Based on a true story.

What we thought:

Steven Soderbergh is one of those directors known for taking a "one for me, one for them" approach to filmmaking: for every crowd-pleasing installment of the Ocean’s series, he’ll make a quirky little indie picture like The Girlfriend Experience. Oddly, The Informant! is one that falls somewhere in between – and suffers for it.

Matt Damon is Mark Whitacre, the real-life informant of the title. Whitacre is an exec at ADM, an agri-business behemoth that produces lysine, an ingredient in pretty much every processed food product on the market in the United States. His job involves being a part of price-fixing agreements between ADM and other multinationals, illicit deals worth unimaginable amounts of money. Ostensibly driven by an uneasy conscience, Whitacre alerts the FBI to the goings-on and works for them undercover as their inside man.

Damon does a great job of bringing the now-famous whistleblower to life. Managing to somehow be both cunning and naively enthusiastic at the same time, he falls just short of being hapless. His investigation constantly teeters on the brink of falling apart due to his ineptitude, but he always manages to pull it off with Teflon-coated aplomb. He’s mining a similar vein to his Ocean’s series pickpocket, but it works beautifully in this context.

The rest of the film reflects the same understated humour – it’s the kind of stuff that gets more light chuckles than knee-slapping roars. All the way through, though, I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was watching a Coen brothers film. Stylistically, it has a lot more in common with Burn After Reading than anything Soderbergh has done before. Add a veneer of Ocean’s Eleven slickness, and you’ve got a movie that struggles to find its feet.

Not quite funny enough to be an outright comedy, and not serious enough to be a drama, neither small-scale indie nor blockbuster, The Informant! feels lost between identities. It does a fair enough job as light entertainment, but its wishy-washiness means that it’ll never be a film of any consequence. 

Matt Damon piles on the pounds to play a bumbling whistle-blower out to expose his employers' dirty dealing.

PRESHEN GOVENDER 2009/10/20 8:46 AM
  • Rating:
I like a bit of junk in my trunk ,you know i am from the south of jhb
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