Theatrical Review: The Informant!

In the early 90s, a transnational corporation ADM (Archer Daniels Midland) was investigated by the FBI into matters of price-fixing around the world (primarily around the use of the amino acid lysine in food production) and all of that came about through one very big whistle-blower by the name of Mark Whitacre, a very big wheel within the company who sees himself as saving the company in the end, but who has way more going on than either ADM or the FBI knows at the start of this…

The Informant! is the latest movie from director Steven Soderbergh (one of my personal favorites) and he’s got something here that’s really unique that takes it’s swings at both corporate greed and personal ambition, all through the eyes of a guy who’s pretty likable, but makes you question him more in just what the hell was he doing? It’s a dark comedy that’s actually pretty briskly paced, but with a lot to chew on still be it’s end. Now when I say “comedy” with this, don’t necessarily expect this to be something that delivers big laughs, but more smiles and chuckle at watching it’s events unfold…

The events themselves are pretty dry, and not necessarily something that you’d think would make for all that a compelling film, but what makes them work on film though are some pretty compelling performances and a really brilliant score from composer Marvin Hamlisch, who handles this just like he did with some movies he did for Woody Allen back in the day.

And the performances are terrific. Matt Damon takes the lead here as Mark Whitacre and no one has ever seen Damon like this in a movie before, his Whitacre is a smart and passioned guy, but as revealed through commentary voiceovers throughout the action, not necessarily as prioritized as he should be. His wife, Ginger, played by Melanie Lynskey (who was the “other” girl in Peter Jackson’s Heavenly Creatures) does a real nice job as being Mark’s support and in some ways the gateway to the paths that he takes here. And it’s really nice to see actor Scott Bakula as FBI agent Brian Shephard, a guy who really wants to do the right thing, but who gets just a little too emotionally involved with his subject in the puruit of this case. With the exception of Damon, this cast isn’t exactly typical for a Soderbergh movie and also includes such people as Joel McHale (best known for E!’s The Soup), comedians Rick Overton and Allen Havey, and yeah… there’s The Smothers Brothers in roles as well.

Now this is based from a book, and I don’t have any idea just how close to the book it is, and right at the start, before the credits even roll, they tell you that they’re monkeying with some of the situations for dramatic effect, and when it ends up being something that’s just this entertaining, that’s fine. It’s a very well done and well made movie with a real top-notch job from Matt Damon and it offers a lot to chew on… very much recommended…

About Darren Goodhart

Darren Goodhart is a 44-year old St. Louis-based Graphic Designer and Illustrator (and former comic book artist) who's been seeing movies all his life, but on an almost weekly basis in theatres for the last 20 years and owns nearly 1,000 DVDs for his home theatre. He's learned a lot about film over the 20 year period, and has taken his appreciation beyond the mainstream. His favorite types of film are mostly genre entertainment, but he also enjoys a wide range of drama, action and cult-y stuff from around the world, and is currently re-discovering a love affair with lower budget exploitation and genre films from the 70s and early 80s. He doesn't try to just dismiss any film, but if there's a bias against one, he'll certainly tell you that in the space of his reviews.

20. September 2009 by Darren Goodhart
Categories: Text Reviews, Theatrical Review | Leave a comment

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