Pin It
Favorite

Wearing a Wire: Matt Damon takes true story gold to the next level in The Informant! 

Matt Damon takes true story gold to the next level in The Informant!

click to enlarge film_informant.jpg
Expectations are understandably high for The Informant! since Warner Brothers has spent a fortune placing pop-up ads and television spots virtually everywhere. It has been extraordinarily difficult over the last month to avoid the nerdy image of Matt Damon in the title role of Mark Whitacre.

But the finished product stands up to the scrutiny. I'd read it's like A Beautiful Mind meets The Insider. And that's not bad, of course. Director Steven Soderbergh's prodigious and excellent body of work cuts him plenty of slack. Michael Clayton, Syriana, and Oceans 11 and 13 alone would command our respect, but he's also responsible for Traffic, Erin Brockovich, and Sex, Lies, and Videotape.


This true story follows Whitacre, the former president of Archer Daniels Midland's bio products division from 1989-1995 who turned FBI informant. He reveals global price fixing schemes regarding lysine, and his motives appear genuine, even heroic. As he agrees at one point in the film, he is wearing the white hat and the other ADM execs are wearing black hats. But the haunting question is asked by Agent Brian Shepard (played with great agility by Scott Bakula) "Why are you doing this, Mark?" That's where this movie proves interesting and why I'll stop giving anything else away.

This film bursts out of the gate fast and funny during the first 45 minutes as Marvin Hamlisch's score urges the story along with a kind of non-sequitor brashness. The music takes you by surprise and in someone else's hands it might be out of synch with what's on screen, but here it works beautifully. There is a Pink Panther lightness and buoyancy achieved both musically and visually with wonderful pop art graphics that reveal, for example, we are in Decatur, Illinois in 1992. You half expect Mickey Dolenz of the Monkees to jump out from behind a fern in the ADM offices and start singing "I'm A Believer."

One especially effective technique is Soderbergh's use of the Whitacre voice-over. We not only receive insights into Mr. Whitacre's tumbled logic, but we also see ourselves in the sometimes slap-happy thoughts he has while involved in serious business discussions. He makes incoherency worth thinking about.

But, in the end, this is Damon's movie. And for all the screen time we as moviegoers have had with him over the years, he still manages to transcend all that, to go beyond Bourne and Ripley and Edward Wilson and come up with something truly unique, vibrant and interesting. He goes beyond the weight gain, the glasses and the mousey naivety to create a very real, developed and complex human being whose motives we brood on mightily as we leave the theater. It may be time to count Damon among this country's best actors, though I suspect that will be difficult for some.

There are moments in The Informant! that do feel like Ripley, as Whitacre is always a fingertip away from being found out. The big difference is we don't know what's true and what's not. We, like Whitacre's wife Ginger (Melanie Lynskey), want to believe in his childlike earnestness.

If good movies do anything, they teach us more about life's contradictions than about its easy solutions. The Informant! does that masterfully.

The Informant! ★★★★✩

Starring: Matt Damon, Melanie, Lynseky, Scott Bakula

Directed by Steven Soderberg.

Rated R

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Latest in Film

More by Source Weekly

  • Picks 10/12-10/19

    • Oct 12, 2016
  • DO NOT SPIT ON MY CAR

    We recently visited Bend for the Film Festival and very much enjoyed ourselves, with one small exception. We parked our Ford in the public parking structure, only to find when we returned on Friday night that it had been spat upon, apparently in retribution for our Obama 2012 bumper sticker. I understand that whoever did this was passionate about politics, something I have always shared.
    • Nov 7, 2012
  • THE SOURCE ROCKS, BUT 'ONE DAY AT A TIME' DOESN'T

    After living in Bend for a year and a half, I recently stopped through on business. I love the town, the people, and all the outdoor beauty the area offers. One of my favorite things about Bend is without question, The Source. From the first time I read it, I knew it would be a cover-to-cover great time for me to enjoy all the stories, community news, the updates on all the music and arts, presentations, and great things goings on around town.
    • Nov 7, 2012
  • More »

Readers also liked…

© 2017 LAY IT OUT INC | 704 NW GEORGIA, BEND, OREGON 97703  |   Privacy Policy

Website powered by Foundation