Review by Jack Foley
TAKEN at face value, whistleblowing drama The Informant! may not seem like a barrel of laughs. But guess again, for Steven Soderbergh’s latest is a clever romp that really does challenge the intellect as well as tickle the funny-bone.
Matt Damon plays Mark Whitacre, a rising star at agri-industry giant Archer Daniels Midland (ADM) who suddenly decides to expose his company’s multi-national price-fixing conspiracy to the FBI.
As he liaises with the Feds in helping to gather evidence, however, it slowly emerges that he hasn’t been quite so forthcoming about the way in which he’s been helping himself to the corporate coffers.
And to make matters worse, Whitacre’s ever-changing account threatens to undermine the case as it becomes almost impossible to decipher what is real and what is the product of his rambling imagination.
Based on New York Times journalist Kurt Eichenwald’s account of the true story of the highest-ranking corporate whistleblower in US history, The Informant! is a fascinating, amusing and highly twisting experience that finds just about everyone concerned on top form.
Damon, in particular, is brilliant as the slippery Whitacre, an apparently amiable family man who, over the course of the film, channels elements of bumbling idiocy, well-meaning honesty and deep-seated psychosis.
His Whitacre is a complex figure… highly amusing on the one hand, yet deeply tragic on the other. Getting to know him is a fascinating experience as Damon slowly peels away the layers.
But there’s strong support, too, from the likes of Scott Bakula and Joel McHale (as exasperated FBI agents) and the various colleagues and family members affected by Whitacre’s grand plan.
Soderbergh, for his part, opts for a more breezy show-and-tell approach to the story, avoiding the heaviness of corporate whistleblowing dramas such as The Insider.
By doing so, he self-consciously wrong-foots the viewers, lulling them into thinking this is a screwball-style comedy at times before delivering some late revelatory knock-out blows.
His use of music, voice-over and even ’70s-style clothing and hair-dos is similarly mis-leading but adds to the overall pleasure of watching events unfold.
The Informant! therefore makes for highly recommended viewing… one that grips from the outset by virtue of its tricky central character. Damon’s star, meanwhile, just seems to keep on rising.
Running time: 108mins
UK DVD & Blu-ray Release: March 29, 2010
- Buy it on DVD (Amazon)
- Buy it on Blu-ray (Amazon)
- Read our review
- The Informant! Photo Gallery